Members of GMB and Unite have voted to reject the local government pay offer, with similar percentages to Unison members, who voted by 79% to reject a 1.75% pay increase (2.75% for those on pay point 1).
Ballot papers are scheduled to go out to Unison members in early December, asking whether they want to strike to secure an improved pay offer.
The union will be asking members to vote yes. Meanwhile, the Joint Trade Union Side have written to the Employers’ Side, asking them to return to the negotiations and make an improved pay offer.
Since 2010 the value of local government pay has fallen by 25%. The 1.75% pay offer is completely inadequate.
In order to not fall foul of the anti-union laws we need a huge yes vote. Nationally the campaign has been sluggish, with many branches not knowing when the ballot would come. We need a positive, proactive campaign from the top (the Service Group Executive), from the branches, and in the workplaces.
Many branches have taken a knock in the pandemic. We’ve lost activists to Covid-19. People have been less engaged and more atomised because of working from home. We can’t accept this as the new normal. We must use the pay campaign to reinvigorate our workplace organisation.
In my branch we have established a weekly strike committee to oversee campaigning up to and throughout the ballot period.
We need meetings online and, in the workplace, promoting the contents of the claim. We should be producing workplace-specific items well as giving out national materials. Days of action, local demonstrations and press coverage can raise the profile of the pay campaign for workers disconnected from the workplace by remote working. Reps should be contacting every member to tell them about the pay campaign through phone banking as well as emails, mailouts and mass texts.
In the health service, where (in England) workers have rejected a 3% pay offer, the GMB is running a formal ballot for industrial action, from 10 November to 15 December. But Unison is dragging it out: “A survey of members who didn’t vote [in the ballot on the 3%] to find out the reasons why... consultation with UNISON branches... [then] an indicative industrial action ballot”. Only if a minimum of 45% of all members take part does Unison plan a formal ballot.
The new left majority on Unison’s National Executive, currently locked in a legal showdown with the union’s permanent officials, should link its battle for democracy with these battles on pay.