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Single status


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From: The Socialist issue 529, 16 April 2008: ‘We’re striking against low pay’

Search site for keywords: Birmingham - Council - Single status

Birmingham strike

Birmingham council have imposed a new pay and grading system onto their 40,000-strong workforce, under the guise of the 'single status' scheme. Under this, some workers will lose half their pay. 20,000 angry workers came out on strike on 5 February and this is likely to be repeated and exceeded on 23 and 24 April.
Dave Griffiths, West Midlands Socialist Party, reports
Birmingham council workers strike on 5 February 2008, photo S O

Birmingham council workers strike on 5 February 2008, photo S O'Neill

Packed meetings of Birmingham council workers have rejected the council's new proposed 'single status' deal. Two more strike days have been announced for 23 and 24 April.

Councils across the country, pushed to end unequal pay for women, have sought to do this by robbing their fellow workers and attacking pay across the workforce. Angered by Birmingham's proposed pay cuts of up to £15,000 a year, tens of thousands of workers undertook mass lobbies and strike action earlier this year. 20,000 were on strike on 5 February.

The council also sought to force through performance-related pay. Faced with huge workforce rejection they then sought to impose their deal.

But following strike action in February the council were forced to start negotiating and to offer new proposals. Fighting back works!

Despite all their bluster the council have 'found' £9 million to soften the blow of their package. But they are still seeking to rob Mary and Peter to pay Pauline.

They say pay will now be cut in stages and have found some improvements for low-paid grades. They are also trying to sneak in performance-related pay in a new disguise.

The mass rejection of the new deal which saw votes to resume industrial action shows that workers are determined to secure a fair package across the workforce. They believe councils and government should pay for their decades-long failure to pay equally.

Birmingham council workers strike on 5 February 2008, photo S O

Birmingham council workers strike on 5 February 2008, photo S O'Neill

While similar lousy deals have seen Labour councils seek to impose them, this one has been Tory and Liberal led. Here we have seen that 'old fashioned Toryism' is still alive and well.

Faced with strike action, Councillor Rudge, the cabinet member responsible, claimed that workers were 'being influenced by national officials'. When the mass meetings rejected his proposals he claimed they were 'taken over by rabble rousers and the left'!

At a time when local union reps face pressure from national officials to accept poor deals the former is an unlikely tale. The latter merely shows the council's failure to understand the anger of their workers. "Equal pay now, No losers" remains their demand.

In Greenwich the unions secured a 'no losers' deal from the council. This shows what is possible if the unions are strong, already evidenced by the concessions forced on Birmingham council.

'Not an hour on the day, nor a penny from our pay' was Greenwich's slogan. Socialist Party members will do their best to ensure Brum's council workers are made aware of what was achieved in Greenwich. If it's good enough for London, it's good enough here as well.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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