A million council workers strike

Submitted by on 22 July, 2002 - 11:02

By Dion D'Silva

On 17 July, for the first time in 23 years local government unions joined together to take national strike action - over pay. The Government have offered us a miserable 3%. All the national reports were that the strike was very successful.

Jack Dromey said that by 10.30 am there were over 750,000 workers on strike, with more joining as they were due to begin their shifts. Heather Wakefield, a Unison official, said it was "solid in Bath, Belfast was at a standstill and Birmingham city centre was blocked up". Thousands of staff have been joining the unions to take part in the action.
The ballot result in the three unions had been varied. Unison had the lowest vote for action, 57%, while GMB voted yes by 66% and TGWU by 80%.

This probably reflected two things: the weight of the national machine and the proportion of low pay manual workers in the respective unions.

This was a strike about pay but there are also pent-up feelings about privatisation and this New Labour government. Unfortunately privatisation and the anti-union laws meant that some members couldn't take action.

Many Direct Labour Organisations and services such as bin collection have been privatised and workers forced to come out of the national terms and conditions.
The TGWU said that members had been threatened with disciplinary action if they went on strike. At a lot of picket lines this morning the dust workers drove past in slow convoy to show their support. Next time we need to be all out.

What next:
l Step up the action to two-days and three-days.
l Organise selective on-going action.
l Co-ordinate with other unions for further action, e.g. RMT and NATFHE.
l Build for a one day national strike and demonstration in September.
l Lobby all our councillors and MPs.
l Demand that councils and central government stop all privatisations, including PFI.
l For national pay rates of terms and conditions to cover all workers.
l For a national 35-hour week.
l Organise a Public Sector Alliance of all the unions to pursue our demands.

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