By Socialist Alternative members in Unite and Unison local government sectors
Council workers have received a full and final offer from the employers of £1925 for most staff. Not a single council worker will receive a pay rise above the rate of inflation.
The following morning, workers will have woken to the BBC reporting that the cost of basic foodstuffs has risen by 34% and some foods such as pasta have almost doubled in price. That clearly demonstrates that once again council workers are faced with being worse off than they were this time last year.
No sign of inflation crisis ending
Since inflation first went above 6% in October 2021, a succession of Tory Prime Ministers and Chancellors have claimed that inflation will fall substantially within a few months. Often these claims have been backed up by ‘respected’ analysts. But the reality is inflation has now been in double figures for 10 months. Workers cannot be expected to mortgage our futures to the hopes of capitalist politicians. We live in the here and now and are feeling the immense pressure of the cost of living crisis every day.
Last year, council workers received a very similar offer, but were let down by the lead negotiators who failed to oppose the offer or mount a serious campaign of opposition. Pay negotiations in Unison are regrettably currently in the hands of the more ‘moderate’ elements of the union, who oppose the NEC, led by the left-wing Time for Real Change campaign. It was that ’moderate’ leadership which told members last year’s pay deal was the best for a decade. It wasn’t; for many it was the worst for a decade, because when measured against in inflation, for every worker it was a real-terms pay cut and in many cases significantly so.
Pay claim falling behind
The NJC Negotiating Committee this year put in a pay claim for RPI +2%. This offer falls well below that claim. The NJC Committee have not yet met to consider the offer, but activists must put pressure on their NJC reps to recommend reject and move to a formal industrial action ballot. Too often the unions have allowed the employers to drag out negotiations.
There may be concern in some quarters as to whether Unison can beat the Tory ballot thresholds. Yet up and down the country workers are saying enough is enough and taking action to show what can be achieved. The NEU, FBU and CWU have all shown it is possible to smash thresholds in national ballots. Unison can and must learn from these successes and from regions like the North West that have delivered in ballots.
We must support the call for coordinated action designed to have maximum impact. The first step is a disaggregated ballot of all branches, so that branches able to win majority turnouts can take immediate action, which needs to be nationally coordinated. On the basis of that, branches with weaker ballot results can be supported to re-ballot and achieve majorities.
Unison, Unite and GMB must seize the moment: council workers deserve better!
Socialist Alternative demands:
- Rejection of the offer and a joint campaign by Unison, Unite and GMB to prepare for action
- Local, regional and national meetings of members and activists to discuss the offer and build the campaign
- Move straight to an industrial action ballot
- Move to co-ordinate any planned strike action with other striking public sector workers