Socialist Worker

Councils

Issue No. 1861

OUR STRIKE is showing people's determination and enthusiasm to win something over London weighting, the allowance for living and working in the capital. The selective action we began last week means that up to 1,500 Unison members across London councils are out, most for four weeks. That is a significant escalation on the selective action that has been running over recent months.

The employers are trying more draconian methods to try and break the action. Look at Newham, a model New Labour council led by Sir Robin Wales, who is also chair of our London employers' body. They are threatening to stop the check-off of union dues, and offering people £100 a week extra to scab. In Tower Hamlets where I work the New Labour council is also offering £100 a week extra to scabs. They are pressuring temps by saying offers of a permanent job could be withdrawn if they support the strike.

Despite the bullyboy tactics the mood among the strikers is very determined. About 300 of us were involved in an enthusiastic day of protest last Wednesday. We lobbied talks at the employers' headquarters. Very little was organised by our union officials, but strikers took over running the lobby ourselves. We were noisy and energetic. We staged a spontaneous march through south London to reach a strike rally.

The employers and the government have a wider agenda. They want to resist paying cost of living allowances across the board and instead move towards more 'flexible' schemes where they pay selected groups allowances using 'market' principles.

Our dispute has been dragging on for a long time. We have not had action involving the whole membership in London councils since last November. If the employers are now digging their heels in then we need action involving all the membership.

The issue of London weighting goes across the public sector - firefighters, postal workers, teachers. Last year we had a united one-day strike and demo of teachers and council workers. Why can't we all get together and have a huge united demonstration?

The next few weeks are crucial. In Tower Hamlets we are picketing every day. We are also planning to leaflet the rest of the council to build a branch meeting to involve as many people as possible in discussing the way forward. The next regional event is 6 August, in the last week of our strike. We should use that to send a message to the employers that selective action is part of building wider action.

But many strikers feel more is needed before then. That's why some branches have called a meeting for strikers in different boroughs to come together next week.
John McLoughlin, on strike in Tower Hamlets

  • Rank and file strikers' meeting, 1pm, Tuesday 29 July, Room B102, Brunei Gallery, opposite SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, off Malet Street, London WC1. Called by Westminster, Brent and Lambeth Unison.


    'IN LEWISHAM housing benefits and mail room workers joined the action on Monday. For many it is their first time on strike. There is a lot of anger and people are really happy to be out and fighting.'
    Dave Watts, Lewisham


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    News
    Sat 26 Jul 2003, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1861
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