Socialist Worker

Local government pay ballot could boost united walkouts

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2404

Strikers on the march in 2011

Strikers on the march in 2011 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The possibility of more than a million workers striking together in July has moved a step closer. The GMB union announced on Friday of last week that it is balloting 220,000 of its members in local government and schools over whether to strike over attacks on their pay.

And from Friday of this week 600,000 ballot papers are set to be delivered to Unison members in local government and schools.

The ballot of GMB members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland comes after members overwhelmingly rejected a pay offer of just over 1 percent. The union said it has scheduled action for 10 July, should a yes vote be returned. 

This is a date that has been mooted by a number of unions, including Unison.


John McLoughlin, Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary, told Socialist Worker in a personal capacity, “We have to do everything we can to win the ballot—getting off to a good start is important.

“School half term is in the first week of the ballot so we’ll need another big push once people go back to work and check they have voted. The ballot goes all the way through to 23 June.

“It’s important that stewards and activists engage the whole membership now and start preparing for the fight. People are much more confident when we’re coming out together.”

As well as GMB and Unison, the PCS and NUT unions have already put forward 10 July as a possible date for coordinated action.

Activists now have to work within union branches to build links and make the date a real focus for a fightback.

“Making links between workplaces and unions and holding joint meetings is all part of preparing for strikes once the result is out,” said John. 


“The fact that GMB are balloting now means we can have one joint leaflet for all local government unions to fight over pay.” The Unite union is also balloting 100,000 of its members over whether to take industrial action in July.

Unison is set to ballot 400,000 of its members working in the health service in the summer—they could be striking in late September over attacks on NHS pay.

After discussions within the union leadership, they hope to join Unison local government workers who could also be out once again.

John said, “It’s very welcome that there’s serious discussion inside the union leadership about escalated action with two more strike days in September. And at looking at the potential for coordinating with health workers.”

Five ways to build for strikes now

  1. Joint workplace meetings
    Between official announcements from the unions, the mood around the fight can go quiet. Organising joint workplace meetings means people can come together, ask questions and debate what action they should take.
  2. Make links with other unions
    By holding meetings with groups of workers in other unions, members can share experience and ideas for building a big yes vote in the ballots.
  3. Visit workers to sign them up to the union
    Some workers can be isolated from union activity in the workplace due to working long hours on their own. Seeking out these workers and signing them up to the union will help build the union and publicise the ballot.
  4. Invite striking workers to meetings
    Inviting striking workers to union meetings can give confidence to those being balloted, and also give fresh ideas for building the action.
  5. Making collections for strikes
    Organising collections for workers already on strike builds solidarity across workplaces, and helps to create bigger networks of support.

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