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United strike action can win
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Jean Thorpe, Nottingham City Unison rep, personal capacity
The image of a homeless person rummaging through a bin for food is sadly quite common. But now many low paid workers are also being forced into that situation.
I've been told about a low-paid worker at Nottingham city council in that position. His workmates would save out-of-date food from the communal fridge for him.
This kind of extreme in-work poverty is one of the by-products of the local government pay freeze in place since 2010. This is why we're striking on 14 October.
And it's not just the lowest paid workers who are struggling. I have had social workers approach me as a union rep, saying they cannot afford to fill up their car with fuel for work.
Nottingham city council is heaping further misery on its staff. An ongoing local pay freeze is in place for many staff and last week the city council announced pay cuts via restructuring for home care staff.
A generalised fightback is essential. A successful outcome to our pay dispute, on the back of a strong strike and campaign, could also send a warning to council bosses - and the government - to back off from attacking jobs and services.
A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report stated that by 2018, public services could be at the level they were in 1938! Over 450,000 jobs have already been lost in local government since 2010.
UCU members in Further Education colleges will now be striking on 14 October too, with NHS workers striking the day before. The ballot of council workers in Scotland finishes on 29 September and it is hoped their strike can be coordinated with ours as well.
The greater the number of disputes that are coordinated, the greater the confidence of those taking part. Trade union leaders should be talking to each other to maximise coordination, including any disputes in the private sector.
The dispute shouldn't finish on 14 October though. In my branch and no doubt in others, activists are demanding to know what is the union's strategy to try to win this dispute? If activists and members knew what future action is planned, there would be more confidence that we can win.
- STOP PRESS: Given the decision by Unison, Unite and GMB unions to split the days of the health workers' action from local government, the PCS national executive has voted to call its members out on 15 October. This will mean three days of consecutive strike action to break the public sector pay freeze.
In The Socialist 24 September 2014:
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