SOME 1,500 council workers across London walked out on strike on Monday. Most will be out for the next four weeks, in the latest phase of their battle to win an increase in their London weighting allowance. They are demanding a rise to £4,000 a year in the allowance which is meant to cover the extra costs of living and working in the capital. Other groups of public sector workers in London - from teachers to postal workers, firefighters to university workers - face similar fights.
Council workers have staged a series of London-wide one-day strikes over the last year. In recent months the main council workers' union, Unison, has shifted to calling out selected groups for a week or more at a time. The union leaders' strategy has so far failed to shift the employers. But workers' response to the strike calls has shown the mood for a fight is as strong as ever.
In Newham, east London, on Monday, over 200 workers struck in housing benefits, transport and in key IT sections. Newham's New Labour council is run by Sir Robin Wales, who is also chair of the London council employers' body which refuses to pay a decent London weighting. Picket lines were big and lively across the borough, with many people who have never joined pickets in previous strikes doing so this time.
The workers were inspired by the spirit shown in earlier selective action in the borough when staff at up to 31 schools struck. A similar picture of strikers' spirits was emerging across London on Monday. Groups of workers walked out in 23 of London's 32 boroughs. In Southwark refuse workers were out.
Some agency workers joined the Southwark strike, and no wonder. They are on just £4.10 an hour and have to work 12-hour days six days a week just to make ends meet. Alfie, one of the refuse workers, has worked 21 years in the job, and this was the first time he had been on strike.
In Camden over 150 housing benefits and council tax workers were out, and in Hammersmith over 100 housing workers. In Islington social workers, housing repairs workers and others struck.
In Tower Hamlets over 100 housing workers were out. Their spirit had been boosted by the victory last week of their fellow Unison members in the borough's nurseries - after three weeks of all-out action. The housing strikers held a mass meeting on Monday, and planned to carry their fight out to win support from other council workers and trade unionists in the area - and also to rattle the cages of local councillors!