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London Weighting dispute rolls on

London Weighting dispute rolls on UNISON members in Local Government have been undertaking a series of one-day strikes for increased London Weighting. This is currently £2,646 for Inner London Boroughs, and £1,407 for most workers in Outer London. The claim for £4,000 for all 32 Boroughs has been met with “there's no money, pay increases will mean redundancies” from the Bosses.

Both the Transport & General Workers' Union and the GMB took part in the fourth and subsequent days' action after belated ballots. A rolling series of five-day strikes by “key workers” across each London Borough is also being undertaken in support of the dispute. The strength of support for the dispute was reflected in the fact that London Branches of UNISON rejected the National Pay settlement in local ballots. Decent London Weighting is badly needed, as it is virtually impossible to live in London at the present rates, and many Local Authorities have real staffing crises. Failure to win will mean services continuing to collapse because they can't recruit workers with the skills needed to do the jobs.

However, with the National Pay dispute sold out, the London Weighting dispute is isolated within Local Government, although other public service workers' disputes prevent workers being demoralised by this. The last successful National Pay dispute in 1989 was only won by NALGO with a rolling program of All Out strikes, followed by indefinite sectional strikes by “key workers” – much stronger action than one-day All Out strikes and five-day sectional actions. Even so, NALGO's negotiators ditched the flat-rate claim (as has been the case on each subsequent occasion), and the lowest acceptable percentage offer was put to the membership.

Without indefinite action, at least by “key workers”, it is difficult to see how the dispute can be won. Unless the Bosses have a change of heart, the dispute is likely to be settled on a similar basis to the National Pay claim, i.e. a two-year deal with a greater percentage increase for the Outer London Boroughs. Without greater confidence in our ability to win ballots for indefinite strike action, it is difficult to see how this will change.

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