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4 October 2007

Local government pay offer: It's time for action

Once more workers in the public sector are finding themselves being forced to take action to hold back the rising tide of New Labour attacks. After months of wrangling, local government workers in Unison are to be balloted on taking industrial action over the employers' pathetically low pay offer of 2.475%.

Marc Glasscoe, branch secretary, Lincoln City Unison, personal capacity

Inflation is currently at around 4.1%, while some of our most basic household expenditure such as food and utility bills are rocketing. Year after year, council tax is rising by as much as they can get away with.

Since New Labour came to power in 1997 house prices, and therefore mortgages, have risen by 156%. Wages, on the other hand, have risen by 35%.

Workers are being expected to somehow make their wages stretch even further to just maintain their current standard of living. With the amount of personal debt in Britain now higher than the national GDP, it is quite clear that this isn't working. We can no longer watch the cost of living rise while our wages stay still. The time has come for us to take a stand.

In an attempt to dress up the offer, and appeal to the union's values of fair play for the low paid, the employers have added an additional offer of 3.4% for the very lowest paid in local government to raise the lowest pay point to 6 per hour.

Aside from the fact that 6 per hour is still a pitifully low wage (Unison itself campaigns for a minimum wage of 6.75), this will benefit very few people. It is a blatant attempt at trying to make the vast majority of the workforce appear greedy and unreasonable. When you consider that MPs are on a starting rate of 60,675, it paints a slightly different picture!

Many workers are understandably concerned about the prospect of taking two days of strike action just before Christmas. Many have asked why it has taken so long to reach this point when it has been clear for months that the employers were not prepared to move.

At Unison Local Government conference in June, Socialist Party members argued the case for rejecting the employers' 2% pay offer and moving straight to an industrial action ballot, as time would soon be against us. The union leaders, lacking confidence in the members, preferred to continue with consultation. The members came back with a resounding NO to the 2% offer, and are in no mood now to accept a pathetic 0.475% extra.

If we show strength now, the sacrifices we have to make will soon be shown to be worth it.

Unison members in local government need to mobilise and vote massively in favour of strike action against this derisory pay offer of 2.475%. Only by sending a clear message to the employers and the Labour government can we hope to shift them and show that we will not accept any more attacks on our conditions. We need to show them that we will not take any more cuts in our living standards without a fight!

In recent years we have seen attacks on workers' pension schemes, job cuts in the civil service, changes to terms and conditions of service and the privatisation and sell-off of our public services.

We need to say enough is enough! It is time to send a clear message that we will not accept any more attacks on our pay and conditions. Reject this below-inflation pay offer and vote YES for strike action!




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/3221