Britain’s largest public sector union, Unison, will hold its national conference next week against the backdrop of potential coordinated strikes involving more than a million workers.
In local government, 600,000 Unison members have a week remaining of the national ballot for strikes against a miserly 1 percent pay offer from employers.
It’s crucial to build the largest vote for action we can.
The GMB and Unite unions are set to ballot another 300,000 local government workers this month. And other public sector unions could strike on the same day.
The prospect of united strikes over pay, starting on 10 July, will dominate discussion at Unison’s local government conference in Brighton this weekend.
Local government workers have borne the brunt of austerity measures that have seen real pay slashed by 18 percent.
Added to that is the loss of several hundred thousand jobs and a renewed drive towards privatisation.
Yet most planned cuts that would see the size of local government in 2020 cut to half its size in 2010 are still to come. That makes the fight over pay all the more important—we need to prepare for the battles ahead.
With Labour still committed to maintaining the coalition’s spending plans, local government workers need a fighting strategy.
Encouraging the growing signs of resistance at a local level is a vital part of that strategy.
One example is First Choice Barnet in north London. They voted by 100 percent to strike against attacks on pay.
There’s a similar spirit among Care UK workers in Doncaster. They’ve struck for more than a month since February.
But we also need a fight at a national level.
That’s why the battle over pay is so important.
It brings together council workers across England and Wales and opens up the possibility of coordinated action with teachers and civil servants on 10 July.
And, there is an even greater potential for action with health and other public sector workers in the autumn.
Being part of a united national struggle to break through on pay restraint will build council workers’ confidence.
That in turn can feed into our ability to resist the ongoing attacks on our jobs, services and conditions.