The 16th and 17th of July was the first time I have ever been on strike and I picketed outside the council building where I work with a couple of other workers.
My workplace has very few workers in a union and an even smaller number in Unison. So it was not surprising that lots of people crossed the picket line. Many of them said that they couldn’t afford to lose two day’s pay or that they were in the GMB. A few agency workers were visibly upset about having to cross a picket line, but said that they would not be called to work there again if they missed two working days. Many of my colleagues refused to even talk to me about the strike or even look at me as they charged into work. There was generally no understanding of how the strike related to them or the notion that even if they were happy with their salary they might strike to improve the pay of their lower paid colleagues. However if it was not all doom and gloom, a few people did agree to join Unison and one worker even joined Unison and then joined the picket line and came to the rally. It was also a good opportunity to talk to people about why they should be in a union and the current issues around public sector pay and inflation.
What is clear from talking to workers who didn’t strike is that many believed that the fight for a pay rise in line with the real increase in inflation cannot be won. This is partly the fault of the Unison leadership who have failed to demonstrate any real strategies beyond two days of strike. I suspect that now we have had a two day strike the leadership will come back with no improved (or very little improved ) pay offer and say that at least they tried to get a better deal .
We need pressure from trade union branches and Unison activists to make sure that this does not happen and to put forward some concrete strategies about how we can win the fight for fair pay.