THIS MONTH could see escalating action over pay. Around 150,000 Royal Mail workers are set to strike for 24 hours from next Wednesday evening. Management is insisting that postal workers accept new delivery arrangements as part of a pay deal.
Workers will get an increase of just 4.7 percent over two years on top of their present paltry £250 a week basic. They could get an extra 2.2 percent if they meet certain targets for 'savings' as a result of the new delivery plan.
But the company's scheme will impose one mail delivery across the whole country. It means bigger rounds for postal workers, longer gaps between breaks, and a worse service for everyone except businesses. CWU union leaders have desperately tried to get bosses to take the delivery plan out of the pay deal. But at the start of this week management were refusing to do so.
If the strike goes ahead it will focus the feeling over speed-ups, harder working, the threat of up to 40,000 postal job losses and intensified privatisation. It is crucial that activists push their union leaders not to settle over pay until all these issues have been addressed.
Council workers in London are balloting for a strike over London weighting, the allowance some workers get to cover the extra cost of living in London. John and Alison work for Tower Hamlets council in east London.
John told Socialist Worker, 'People are overwhelmingly in favour of action, to the point where when you talk to people they just say, 'Of course we are voting for action.' Nursery fees for my kid are £700 a month. People have to live out in zone six, but then travel costs a fortune.
'Workers are cottoning on to the fact that several unions are balloting, and they are demanding to know why we aren't doing it together.' Alison said, 'In our last strike we had to go round explaining the issues to people. Now everyone knows we can't afford to live in London. 'The militancy goes far beyond the usual suspects.'
The result for the ballot on London weighting was due on Friday. A strike seems likely for 14 May, next Tuesday week. The public sector Unison union held a rally in defence of public services in London on Thursday of last week. The mood towards unity across the public sector was very much in evidence from the discussion.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, announced possible national action for a 6 percent pay rise, with a ballot planned for 10 June. In some cases anger over local conditions is feeding into the campaign for London weighting.
Dot is involved in an ongoing series of strikes by white collar staff at Kings College London.
She said, '155 out of 198 staff voted for action because of a restructuring that means we all have to reapply for our own jobs. 'The response over London weighting has been unanimous among people I have spoken to. We haven't had a rise in London weighting for ten years.'
Lecturers and administration workers at some 300 colleges across the country have rejected a 1.5 percent pay offer. They are set to strike on 28 and 29 May. Teachers across London went on strike last month. The 40,000 teachers were also campaigning for higher London allowances. Their next step is a rally to be held in three weeks time. Their union leaders are talking about further strike action if pay in London is not increased. They are also campaigning with the other major teaching unions for a reduction in teachers' workload.
Ruth Winters from the firefighters' FBU union told the Unison rally that they were going to campaign for firefighters' basic pay to be increased to £30,000 a year. There is a growing momentum for action across the public sector unions. A new generation of militant young public sector workers is getting involved. The mood for united action exists in every workplace, but rank and file activists must start campaigning to make it a reality.
The fight for pay can win tremendous backing from every worker and everyone who uses public services.
Plans for strikes in May
Postal workers Wednesday 8 May
London council workers Tuesday 14 May
Lecturers Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May