By Tony Jeffries
Unison members in London local government have voted in favour of strike action over London weighting allowance (LWA), and are set to hold a one-day strike on 16 October.
The employers, represented by the Association of Local Government, recently made an offer of £201 per year increase - and only for workers earning less than £14,796. Unison members have thrown it back at them.
The union's claim for £4,000 LWA was originally submitted in July 2001. Currently local government workers get between £1,500 and £2,850.
The ALG is responsible for firefighters' London weighting and have imposed £4.3k on them. The FBU has a claim for £6k to bring them in line with Met police. 'Agenda for Change' that deals with NHS staff pay suggests their London weighting should be between £3k and £5k.
Clearly public sector workers in London cannot live on what they currently earn. But that's not important to the employers or government.
The ALG says that Unison's pay claim is unrealistic. They would have to put up council tax to meet it. And, as the government has recently admitted, council tax is high enough now almost to provoke poll tax-style non-payment.
A serious political campaign is needed from public sector unions to demand that central government fund public services properly, and pay the workforce a decent wage.
Unions should be coordinating action over London weighting. In their local areas, union members should look for ways to build cross-union alliances.
Since May 2001, Unison has held six all-out one-day strikes and, between October 2001 and August 2003, a campaign of selective action involving 7,000 members. This is a campaign that has been going nowhere slowly. The strike on 16 October must be used to give new momentum to an escalating campaign of industrial and political action - if workers are to win the money they need to live rather than merely existing.
University staff strike over LWA
The Association of University Teachers and Unison in what are called pre-92 universities in London are waging an ongoing industrial campaign for £4,000 London Weighting Allowance (LWA).
The current phase of the campaign involves two-day strikes at selected colleges. Members at Goldsmiths and UCL struck on 22 and 23 September.
Local offers have been made at Kings College, the Institute of Education, City University and the School of Oriental and African Studies.