Local government dispute

Submitted by on 11 August, 2002 - 5:51

Pay offer: not good enough!

By Dion D'Silva

We've won some increases, and now council workers need to finish the job by voting No to the employer's pay offer!

The GMB, TGWU and UNISON are asking their local government members to accept the pay deal that has been brokered by ACAS. Consultations will take place over the next six weeks.

The deal offers some small improvements in the original pay offer but it is still not good enough and should be thrown out. It will not give us the decent pay we were fighting for. Yet it was the strike action council workers took which won the improvements and that shows that a lot more could be won.

What's in the deal? It includes:

  • 3% from April 2002, part of a previous offer that had already been rejected.
  • A minimum of £5 per hour.
  • An additional increase of 1% from October this year. Another 1% for the lowest two grades.
  • An increase of 3.5% from 1 April 2003 with another 1% for the lowest two grades.

Again, an increase of this order would have been a normal part of next year's negotiated pay claim.
What's wrong with the deal?

These increases come nowhere near the union's claim of 6% or a minimum £11,017 basic pay. Effectively it is only a small improvement of the previous offer of 3%. This was decisively rejected by the membership who subsequently took strike action.

A two year deal puts us in a worse position. Who knows what could happen to inflation and therefore what our pay rises will mean by next year?

These additional increases for the very low paid are welcome, but they are still not enough. They amount to only a marginal acceptance of our flat rate claim to help the lowest paid. The employers will argue that by 2003 the lowest paid will be on £5.32. However that is still well under the poverty line.

These differences in percentage improvements could be used to divide us and divide the unions. We have to say: these improvements were won by us all taking strike action together - just think what we could get if we stepped up the fight!

There is some cynicism that the union leadership are more interested in intra-union rivalries, and that the one-day action was, from their point of view, a token. But clearly the strike was not a token event - it was effective. Whatever, the rank-and-file have to take charge of the dispute and reject the offer.

The union leaderships will do all they can to get a yes vote.

Branches, shop stewards meetings and strike committee must produce material and literature giving the arguments for a no vote and we need to get out and campaign among the members.

We are winning the publicity war. All the opinion polls show the public are on our side. The Labour Party and some councils are wobbling on the issue.

We've won some improvements: let's go back and fight for the decent pay we deserve!

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