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What today’s strikes are all about

Strike for Fair PayWhile David Cameron bleets about the alleged lack of a mandate for today’s strike, it should be remembered that the turnout in strike ballots would be a lot higher if the current legal requirements were sensibly adapted to allow, for example, workplace balloting, plus internet and phone voting. In any event GMB members voted 3:1 in favour of industrial action in response to the local government employers derisory pay offer of 1%, which is a convincing mandate for industrial action, and my experience as a GMB branch secretary is that in schools particularly there is a strong appetite for action and school support staff have been joining GMB specifically in order to take part.

The first stage of this action will be a 24 hour strike on Thursday 10th July, and this will be only the opening salvo in a long campaign unless the employer and the government enter meaningful negotiations.

Up to the last minute the joint trade unions have sought meaningful discussions with the government, the employers response has been at best bizarre as they criticise the unions for seeking talks to avert strike action:

The unions have also offered to go to arbitration at ACAS which has also been rejected by the government. Trade union members therefore have no option but to take strike action.

The pay offer is for a 1% increase for the majority of local government workers with some larger increases (up to 4%) at the lower end of the pay scales – where members are barely above the minimum wage. This still does not bring these members pay up to the living wage. These members have had a total of a 1% pay rise since 2010. Not only do over half a million people in local government earn less than the Living Wage (£7.65, or £8.80 in London), but during 2015 the national minimum wage is set to overtake the lowest local government pay scales

A decent pay rise is necessary for these hard working, caring workers because a 1% payrise is inadequate when RPI inflation is running at 2.5% this year. RPI is the most important measure of inflation for pay settlements. Set against inflation, and taking increased pensions contributions into account, local-government pay has been cut in real terms by 18% since 2010.

The employers say they are holding down pay to save jobs and services. But pay has been held down for years, and jobs and services have still disappeared! Almost half a million jobs have been lost in the sector since the coalition came to power.

This article first appeared at Socialist Unity

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