The GMB, Britain’s third largest union, will join Unison and Unite in balloting its members in local government for strikes to win a new pay deal.
Members in all three unions overwhelmingly rejected the offer of a 1% increase from local government employers, by margins of 83%, 70%, and 90% in GMB, Unison, and Unite respectively.
GMB has said it will strike alongside Unison and Unite on 10 July if the ballot returns a yes vote. Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) could also join the 10 July strike, as part of their ongoing dispute over pay, pensions, and workload. So could Unison members in the NHS, whose April conference voted to move to a strike ballot over their own 1% pay offer.
The conference of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), taking place in Brighton as Solidarity went to press (19-22 May), will also discuss their live ballots and possible participation in a 10 July strike. The Fire Brigades Union has an ongoing dispute which could allow it to join the strike.
Activists in GMB, Unison, and Unite will now focus on mobilising the largest possible vote for strikes, and using the ballot as an opportunity to hold workplace and local meetings to discuss how the dispute can be organised and won.
A large strike on 10 July could be an important catalyst for galvanising working-class confidence. But if the public sector pay fight is not to meet the same fate as the 2011 public sector pensions dispute, rank-and-file workers will need to develop an alternative strategy and challenge for control.
Even a mass strike will have little impact if it is allowed to be a one-day spectacle rather than part of a sustained industrial and political campaign, involving an ongoing programme of escalating action, organised around clear demands.