TENS OF thousands of workers employed by London's councils are set to strike next Tuesday, 1 October. The strike is the fifth time this year that London council workers have walked out for a day over London weighting. This is the allowance many workers get for the extra costs of living in London. The last strike coincided with the million-strong national strike over pay by council workers in July.
Tuesday's London strike is backed by all three council workers' trade unions - Unison, the TGWU and the GMB. It will see manual workers, white collar council workers, and support and admin staff in schools all on strike. The strikers want their London allowance increased to £4,000 a year. It can be as little as £1,947 a year now.
Compare that with the police, who get a London allowance of up to £6,000 a year, with additional perks such as free travel within a 70-mile radius of London on top. Some council workers, such as school classroom assistants, take home as little as £170 a week - almost impossible to live on in London. Selected groups in each of the 32 London boroughs will remain on strike after Tuesday to up the pressure on the employers.
More action involving all the capital's council workers will be needed. It would be good if that action was to coincide with other workers fighting over the same issue. 'The feeling for that kind of united action is really strong,' says John McLoughlin, Unison branch chair for council workers in east London's Tower Hamlets. 'Our last strike was especially strong in the schools. Teachers in the schools are fighting over the same issue. Our members and the teachers want to know why we aren't all striking together. They work together. They should fight together.'
TEACHERS IN London's schools are likely to hold a one-day strike over London weighting. Leaders of the NUT union have pencilled in Thursday 14 November for the strike, and should start a ballot of members in around two weeks.
The NASUWT union is also consulting its members about striking over London weighting. London teachers struck for a day on the same issue in March. That saw a magnificent 10,000-strong demonstration of teachers through the capital.
The teachers are demanding the same as the council workers - a rise to £4,000 in their London weighting. A ballot for more strikes is welcome, and long overdue. Many London teachers have been getting frustrated at their union leaders for the long delay since the strike in March. And they also know that more action than another one-day strike will be needed to win, and that action coordinated with other workers would be even more effective. National battles over pay and workload are also possible in the future.
What is happening in the colleges now?
WORKERS IN further education colleges across England and Wales are set to strike over pay on Tuesday 5 November. The strike will involve both lecturers and support staff, and is backed by a range of unions with members in the colleges, including Natfhe, Unison, the TGWU, GMB and ATL.
College staff are demanding a substantial pay rise to bring them up towards the pay that school teachers get.
Workers in London's higher education colleges are in a battle over London weighting. Peculiarities of history mean there is a division when it comes to pay negotiations between the 'new' and 'old' universities. The 'new' universities are those that used to be polytechnics. On Thursday of this week admin workers in the 'old' universities in London were due to strike over London weighting. Like council workers and school teachers, they are demanding a rise to £4,000 in the allowance. Their allowance has not increased for ten years, and the workers backed a strike by an 84 percent yes vote in a ballot organised by Unison. In the 'new' universities admin staff in Unison have been holding a 'consultative' ballot on strikes over London weighting.
Lecturers in both 'old' and 'new' universities are also to hold ballots on possible action over London weighting. United action by lecturers and admin staff in the capital's universities seems to have been pencilled in by their union leaders for Wednesday 13 November. Some union leaders misguidedly want to keep such action on a different day from that taken by other workers, such as the 5 November college workers' national strike or the possible London teachers' strike on 14 November. 'We would have a bigger impact if we all struck together. That would really rattle the employers and the government,' a lecturer in a London university said.