A MILLION striking council workers spearheaded the revolt against low pay this week. No wonder they are fighting. Over 275,000 council workers in England and Wales get less than £5 an hour and two thirds are on £13,000 a year or less before tax.
Local government workers now earn less as a percentage of average earnings than they did during the wave of strikes in 1979, the Winter of Discontent. Millions more workers in other industries are cheering on the council workers. Official figures revealed last week that the average wage for male workers in Britain is £271 a week, and for women it is just £133 a week. Not everyone lives like this. Gavin Davies, chancellor Gordon Brown's friend, has made more than £150 million from cashing in shares. The bosses of Vodafone pocket bonuses of up to £10 million just for turning up at work.
Iain Vallance of job-cutting BT is preparing to pocket a £600,000 bonus-although nobody is sure what he was supposed to be doing at the company. These people, who New Labour praises as 'entrepreneurs', live in a totally different world to the council workers who took action this week. They have nothing in common with the 2,000 Selby miners who heard this week that their jobs are to go.
The strikes this week are a great step forward. Now we need more action involving wider groups of workers to squeeze more money from the employers and the government.
'I'm really glad we're fighting back this week. People who do vital jobs are treated like rubbish while those at the top get fortunes. I hope our strike can be a big part of turning the tide in Britain. It's time workers started fighting.'
Rita McLoughlin, council worker and GMB member, Manchester