The campaign against Gordon Brown's 2%% pay limit for public sector workers
As we go to press workers on London Underground are balloting over strike action to defend job cuts and pay.
London Underground is cutting more than a thousand jobs in administration grades. Transport for London is due to cut around three and a half thousand jobs over the next eighteen months.
At the same time London Underground have made an offer of a five-year pay deal — RPI plus one percent in the first year and then RPI only for the next four years. That is an effective pay cut.
PROBATION SERVICE: Probation areas up and down the country are facing huge cuts in government funding. Redundancies are already on the cards in several areas along with attacks on terms and conditions.
According to the bosses’ Confederation of British Industry unemployment will reach 2.9 million by 2010 — an unemployment rate of about 9 percent — up from 1.8 million now. That is nearly as high as the figure reached under the Tories in 1982 and 1992.
In a recent ballot organised by the National Union of Teachers for discontinuous strike action, 29.7% of eligible members took part and of these 51.7% supported strike action with 48.3% voting against. At an Executive meeting on 6 November we were provided with regional and association (branch) breakdowns of results. In my opinion this made our decision a lot clearer. Together with all but three Executive members I voted to accept the recommendation that we do not proceed to call action. Here are the main reasons why:
This is the full text of the PCS leadership's explanation to union reps of why the 10 November strike was called off.
PCS suspends national industrial action over pay
The PCS national executive committee met this morning and following their receipt of a letter from Sir Gus O'Donnell, head of the home civil service, have decided to suspend the industrial action planned from Monday 10 November and the overtime ban proposed to commence on Tuesday 11 November.
The Socialist Workers Party has three members on the NEC as part of the Left Unity slate – Sue Bond, one of the National Vice Presidents, Andy Reid, and Paul Williams.
Paul Williams is a serious trade union militant who AWL supporters suspect was placed on the NEC slate to stiffen the backbone of the SWP NEC members (for instance the then SWP NEC members, including Sue Bond, had supported the calling off the planned jobs, pay and pensions strike in 2005).
In November 2004 PCS members struck in support of six demands, including national pay. Yet pay never featured in the propaganda for the dispute.
Similarly, in 2005, members were balloted on a number of demands – including jobs and pay - but were then told the planned strike, called off for the “two tier” pensions deal, was really only ever about pensions (and frankly pay again did not really feature in the membership bulletins).
In 2005 the PCS leadership said, “We have persuaded the Government to introduce a fairer, more coherent pay system…” It was typical of the spin that has come to characterise the PCS’s would-be Marxist leadership.
The PCS national dispute is a necessary strike against a gratuitous government pay policy that is squeezing public sector workers at a time of sharply rising costs. It is a fight we have to win if civil servants are not to have their living standards slashed this year and in coming years.
The PCS National Executive Committee's decision to "suspend" the national civil service one day strike planned for Monday 10 November is at best a dreadful mistake. Or it may be a prelude to abandoning the action, possibly on the pretext of some relatively minor concession.
In the ballot for strike action on pay by the National Union of Teachers, which closed on 3 November, 51.7% voted yes, on a turnout of 29.7%. The NUT Executive on 5 November decided to call no action.
The PCS civil service union has called a strike for 10 November, and the teachers’ union NUT will announce the result of its strike ballot on 3 November.<--break-->
On 20th August and 24th September local authorities throughout Scotland were shut down by 24-hour strikes jointly staged by UNISON, UNITE and the GMB. In some parts of Scotland support for the second day of strike action, and the numbers turning out for picketing, were higher on the second day of strike action than on the first.
The strikes had been triggered by an offer of a three-year pay deal from the local authority employers (COSLA) amounting to just 2.5% a year for the next three years. This was subsequently increased to an offer of a one-year deal of 2.5%.
If anything sums up New Labour as a Government for the rich, a cuckoo in the labour movement nest, it has to be their year-on-year drive to keep public sector wages below the rate of inflation.
Unbelievably, it looks as if the pay strikes by civil servants (PCS) and teachers (NUT) in November could be on different days.
The NUT's ballot begins on 6 October, and the PCS's on 24 September. Under the current laws, a ballot mandate for industrial action has to be activated within 28 days, or it lapses; at the same time, however, there's a minimum time (notice to the employer, and so on) between a union getting a ballot mandate and organising a strike.
The two day strike by hundreds of thousands of local government workers [on 16/17 July 2008] has demonstrated that there is a real mood to defeat the government’s imposed pay cut.
The two days saw some wonderful examples of the power workers have — closing many facilities, council offices and schools. In many places strong picket lines effectively stopped other workers, particularly GMB members, going to work and further heightened the impact of the action.
The National Union of Teachers Executive met on 17 July and unanimously agreed a timetable for a ballot on discontinuous strike action as the next steps in the pay campaign.
The ballot will start on Monday October 6th.
Campaigning materials are being produced over the holiday and the strategy will be confirmed at a special executive on Friday 5 September.
The 16th and 17th of July was the first time I have ever been on strike and I picketed outside the council building where I work with a couple of other workers.
As we go to press (20 August 2008) a 24-hour strike action by local government workers, members of UNISON, UNITE, and the GMB is taking place.
The same day PCS members employed by the Scottish Government and Registers of Scotland, are staging a follow-up 24-hour strike.
Both strikes are about below-inflation pay offers for workers in the public sector.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has offered local authority workers a three-year pay-deal, with pay going up by just 2.5% each year.
20th August sees a 24-hour strike action by members of UNISON, UNITE, and the GMB.
Less than a week after the government’s own measure of inflation jumped to 3.3% and after the Governor of the Bank of England penned a letter warning of further increases to come, Chancellor Alistair Darling continued to insist that: “Pay awards in both the public and private sector have to be consistent with our inflation target, which is 2%”.
What, exactly, will this mean for workers? It means month-by-month, pay pack-by-pay pack attacks on our pay. It means that as prices continue to rocket, the money in our pockets will fall behind. It means, in effect, pay cuts.
On Thursday 26 June, over 700 London Underground cleaners organised by the RMT union, who voted 98% in favour of strike action, will take on multinational cleaning companies ISS, ICS, Initial and GBM in a 24 hour strike. This will be followed by a 48 hour strike from 1 to 3 July. With no cleaners at key depots and stations, the health and safety risks of running a railway without cleaners could paralyse the Tube.
Local government workers:
VOTE YES FOR ACTION!
Workers won’t pay for bosses’ losses
Our Pay is a Political Issue
School Support Staff:
Pay will be the major issue before this year’s PCS national conference. Given the general pay squeeze across the public sector and high inflation rate everybody expects that civil servants will get below inflation offers; with many of these increases being non-consolidated. All rational activists agree on the importance of public sector unions working together. If this were to happen, or even if a few unions were to band together, it would be politically and industrially significant
The National Union of Teachers Executive met on 8 May for the first time since the 24 April pay strike. For a while it looked like there would be no discussion or vote on proposals to develop the pay campaign. Although the union’s Co-ordination and Finance Committee (CFC) had met the previous day and agreed some activities for the term ahead their report will not be discussed until the next Executive meeting two weeks later. In the event supporters of the left caucus on the Executive put a motion on pay to ensure that some commitments were made.
Workers in the housing charity Shelter are on strike again on 24-25 April against enforced cuts in pay and conditions. Previous strikes on 5 and 10 March forced Shelter bosses, who at first insisted that they would never negotiate, to put the cuts on hold and talk at ACAS. But their ACAS offer was only a one-off “compensation” payment.
Shelter workers rejected the deal by 64% majority, in a 56% turnout, despite pressure from TGWU-Unite full-time officials to accept. Workers have achieved a lot.
Civil service by Workers’ Liberty PCS Members
A number of Groups (sectors) in PCS are striking on 24 April alongside the teachers and lecturers.
Our strike will make the news and will undoubtedly worry the powers that be; how much better if the whole of the PCS union was on strike.
Of course it does not stop there. Where are Unison, GMB, Unite etc? Gordon Brown has a united and consistent policy towards public sector pay and employment, yet the union movement does not.
The picket line at the Shelter office on Old St, London, was good. On the workers' third day of strike action - after a long pause, a lot of pressure from management, and a lot of foot-dragging or worse from full-time union officials - picket numbers were still buoyant, and the mood was defiant.
Old Street is the base for Shelter's top management, and employs a lot of agency workers, so some people did go into work. But, during the time I was on the picket line, only similar numbers to those on the 5 and 10 March strikes.
For many years now, inequality has soared, but intimidation by employers and foot-dragging by sluggish trade-union leaders have pretty much kept a lid on wage battles.
Back in the 1970s, the then Labour chancellor Dennis Healey promised (untruly) that he would "squeeze the rich until the pips squeak". New Labour has been squeezing the poor - and so far the pips haven't squeaked much. But squeak time could be coming soon.
* Food prices have gone up 15.5% over the last year. The Tory Daily Mail worked out the figures for its own purposes (18 April), but they're accurate.