Following hot on the heels of recent strikes across the public sector (including teachers and the civil service), UNISON members in local government have voted to reject the government’s desultory pay offer, which amounted to another 3 years of pay cuts. This follows years of below inflation “pay rises” (in the real world, pay cuts), and comes as the government attempts to limit public sector pay claims to 2% across the board. Last year, UNISON members voted to reject the government’s initial offer, and voted to take industrial action when the offer was only raised to 2.475% - still well short of inflation, which remains at over 4%. However, despite this vote for action, UNISON instead folded, and accepted another pay cut – perhaps unsurprising from a union led by Dave Prentis, one of New Labour’s biggest supporters in the union movement.
Workers in local government need to take firm control of their struggle, and demand and force a better settlement, whether the local government bosses, Gordon Brown or union leaders like it or not. It’s our wages that are being cut, so we need to be the ones to stop it! Workers across the public sector need to unite across artificial union boundaries - with the government intending on holding down pay across the sector, workers need to work together to make a co-ordinated response. While unions may offer token co-ordinated one day actions, these are not enough, and will not defeat a government intent on showing it is tough on unions, and workers must take the lead and go beyond this.