Public sector pay disputes 2008

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Steven.
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May 23 2008 10:43
Public sector pay disputes 2008

Thread for discussion and updates of public sector pay disputes in 2008, mainly around the annual cost-of-living pay rises, which the government is trying to cap at 2% while inflation is 4.2%.

Coverage on libcom:
http://libcom.org/tags/pay-2008

Related threads:
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/making-pay-claim-2008-14122007
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/local-government-pay-disputes-15022008

last year's thread:
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/uk-public-sector-pay-dispute-nurses-local-gov-civil-service-post-office-etc

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Steven.
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May 23 2008 10:49

Joint NUT/UNISON action now off as UNISON have fucked the strike ballot timetable:
http://libcom.org/news/council-workers-vote-action-22052008

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Jun 23 2008 19:05

we got our strike vote! word on the street is the Industrial Action Committee will approve it this time:

http://libcom.org/news/local-government-workers-strike-over-pay-23062008

strike will be 2 days 16-17 july

Mike Harman
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Jun 30 2008 13:25

Unite council workers also due to strike the same day, extra 40,000 people:

FT wrote:
A fresh assault on government pay restraint policies was launched yesterday as more council workers decided to join next month's two-day strike. Members of Unite, the country's biggest union, representing 40,000 local government workers, voted by three to one to join the strike on July 16 and 17, which is threatening to disrupt refuse collections, schools and social services.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/91bcc5cc-43e8-11dd-842e-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

Mike Harman
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Jun 30 2008 17:07

PCS already has a postive ballot for strike action in some departments, and Serwotka's saying they might go out on the same day. Likely.

http://www.24dash.com/news/Communities/2008-06-30-Civil-servants-set-to-join-council-workers-in-national-strike-action

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Jun 30 2008 19:43

fuckin a! I've been rallying people the past few days, got meetings about the strike organised for thursday. responses mostly positive. Some people a bit scared about losing 2 days pay, but looking solid...

Mike Harman
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Jul 1 2008 13:00

Council workers in Scotland also being balloted now: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7482675.stm

Mike Harman
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Jul 1 2008 16:18

Sellafield is being balloted: http://www.fleetwoodtoday.co.uk/latest-north-west-news/Sellafield-workers-to-vote-on.4231713.jp

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Jul 6 2008 23:30

Steven, Catch, et al....have you discussed the possibility of a new look (and hopefully renamed) Dispatch for these strikes?

Mike Harman
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Jul 7 2008 09:51

Alf, yes.

HSE staff going to work to rule, overtime ban, withdrawal of good will over a relocation:
http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5goWKZSI5gVgmrwoh_iIX9sqiR10g

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Alf
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Jul 7 2008 12:57

Ok, let us know what you decide.

We have produced the front page of the new World Revolution in PDF format which can be downloaded as a leaflet:

http://en.internationalism.org/files/en/wr316-united-struggle-needed.pdf

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 8 2008 12:05

BBC bosses get pay rises in the region of 33% while staff pay is capped at 2% - but it's ok because they're based on similar rises at the Royal Mail, Network Rail and the private sector, and they have to remain 'competitive.'

So 'competitive' means 'massive pay rise' if you're rich already, and 'work longer for less to compete with chinese sweatshop workers' if you're not. I see.

Mike Harman
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Jul 8 2008 12:13

Looks like FE lecturers will be asked to accept 3.2% following strikes:

UCU wrote:
FE pay – Further Education Committee publishes statement
UCU’s Further Education committee met today and issued a statement on the employers’ final offer of 3.2% from October. The Committee expressed its disappointment that the offer was below inflation, amounting to a real terms pay cut, but noted that it was one of the highest in the public sector and it congratulated members for their determination in taking action to win this offer. The FEC statement also noted that other unions were generally putting the offer out to consultation as ‘the best that can be achieved by negotiated means’ or were recommending acceptance. If rejected, UNISON would call for sustained and escalating industrial action. The Committee agreed that UCU’s position should be based on the fullest possible consultation with members and knowing the full results of the other trade union consultation. It has therefore called a special sector conference on 20 September to decide whether we should accept the offer as the best that can be achieved through negotiation or whether to proceed with further strike action. It will consider whether to ballot the full membership on the offer and how best to pursue the campaign for pay parity in the future. Branches will be urged to call meetings in September ahead of this conference. Full details will be sent next week. To read the full FEC statement, click here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/abetterdeal
Mike Harman
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Jul 10 2008 10:37

Argos are going out on the 17th and 24th July. Then a staggered four day strike on the 30th (each depot for four days, but staggered starts, so a total of six days)

http://www.tgwu.org.uk/Templates/News.asp?NodeID=94411&int1stParentNodeID=42438&int2ndParentNodeID=89396&Action=Display

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Jul 10 2008 17:27

strikes looking ok in my dept so far... looking forward to it

my hand is actually on the front page of the unison site at the moment, ha ha

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Alf
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Jul 10 2008 22:44

Fair pay?
What's that?

Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2008 00:12

Alf, as we both know, wages are the cost of reproduction of labour power. Fair pay would then be the full cost of reproduction of the worker. It's quite fundamental to Marx's arguments in Capital that wages are fair, an equal exchange, and that the exploitation of labour power occurs within the productive process, after the exchange of equivalents has taken place.

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Jul 11 2008 09:04

That's true, but it didn't prevent Marx from attacking the slogan 'a fair days work for a fair day's pay' as a 'conservative motto'. I don't think we should use slogans which hide the process of exploitation. The idea of 'fairness' clearly does this which is why I don't think you'll find it in Marx.

Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2008 15:23

Unison fucked up a notification in Tyneside so a bunch of people can't strike. Reminiscent of the CWU last year when a whole bunch of places were excluded from some of the rolling strikes and had to do different days. What's interesting is the angry quotes from the local rag complaining about the back down:

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Union-blunder-bars-staff-from.4280062.jp

Quote:
But Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (Ucatt) executive council member Wilf Flynn said: "I cannot believe such retrenchment so quickly.

"I'm sure Margaret Thatcher threatened the miners with legal action in the 1980s, but they still went on strike for their principles.

"I can't believe that Unison have back down on this. This is the first time I've encountered a situation like this one in South Tyneside.

"Unison denied outright in Tuesday's Gazette that there would be any legal problems with the strike."

In an e-mail to Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, Mr Flynn called the situation a "lost opportunity".

One worker from STH said: "I can't believe the whole strike has fallen through because of a so-called 'administrative complication'.

"Unions are supposed to represent the workers, yet they've backed down over a cock-up. Union members here are furious."

Beltov
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Jul 14 2008 21:07
Mike Harman wrote:
Looks like FE lecturers will be asked to accept 3.2% following strikes:
UCU wrote:
It has therefore called a special sector conference on 20 September to decide whether we should accept the offer as the best that can be achieved through negotiation or whether to proceed with further strike action. It will consider whether to ballot the full membership on the offer and how best to pursue the campaign for pay parity in the future.

The feeling I get from my FE colleagues is that they are very pissed off with rising prices and some of them who had never been on a demonstration before took part in a march through the city centre. I'd say UCU is very worried that if it goes to a ballot then the 3.2% offer would be rejected. Hence the emergency conference and branch meetings to gauge the situation and manage the outcome. I wouldn't be suprised if it went either way.

Our Principal has already given us 3% from August regardless of what happens, and was very confused about why staff were taking strike action in support of a national pay claim. Then on the *very last* day of term, when most staff were in the pub enjoying a liquid lunch, the HR department sent an e-mail announcing the opening of a 'voluntary redundancy scheme'. The government funding (via the LSC) for huge amounts of 'in college' provision has been slashed, which will mean we'll be turning away thousands of applicants in the autumn and pointing them in the direction of the Job Centre. Watch the unemployment figures rise in the autumn...

It's getting much easier for workers to see the connections between the cuts in state spending leading to low increases in pay which are being eaten up by inflation. Who said education was a good place to be during a recession?!?!

B.

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Jul 14 2008 22:16
Mike Harman wrote:
Unison fucked up a notification in Tyneside so a bunch of people can't strike.

apparently this has happened in a few places. a side effect of the anti-union laws.

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Jul 15 2008 16:09

I've spoken to a few people at some of the council run places I've been to, half of them knew nothing about it. Apparently care homes are "exempt" from all of this anyway, which is unfortunate, but it'd hard to get around the fact that if nobody's working, a lot of our residents would starve to death or have a serious accident, slow downs aren't really an option either.

Alf wrote:
That's true, but it didn't prevent Marx from attacking the slogan 'a fair days work for a fair day's pay' as a 'conservative motto'. I don't think we should use slogans which hide the process of exploitation. The idea of 'fairness' clearly does this which is why I don't think you'll find it in Marx.

The important thing thing being the exact political ramifications of the slogans on Unison placards roll eyes

Beltov
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Jul 15 2008 16:31
madashell wrote:
The important thing thing being the exact political ramifications of the slogans on Unison placards roll eyes

But surely these are political slogans that are carefully selected by the unions? At one level the Unison slogan reinforces the illusion that capitalism can be reformed to give workers 'fair pay'. It also hides the 'unfairness' of workers being exploited, of having surplus labour extracted. It's the appropriation of unpaid labour that's the problem, which only the abolition of the wages system can overcome. Surely that's what we should be pointing out to our co-workers?

I also noticed that there is a 'day of protest' in the NHS on Friday:
http://www.amicustheunion.org/default.aspx?page=8614

FInally, with inflation today jumping to 3.8%, if FE staff accept the 3.2% offer from the AoC then that's already a 0.6% pay cut, and with inflation surely to be higher in the autumn this differential will increase. Even FE lecturers should be able to do the maths on that one!

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Jul 15 2008 16:59
Beltov wrote:
But surely these are political slogans that are carefully selected by the unions? At one level the Unison slogan reinforces the illusion that capitalism can be reformed to give workers 'fair pay'. It also hides the 'unfairness' of workers being exploited, of having surplus labour extracted.

I don't think it's as sinister as all that, trade unions are not revolutionary organisations, so they're obviously not going to produce placards that call for the overthrow of capitalism. In any case, of all the shitty things Unison does, coming up with slogans that don't account for a Marxist critique of wage labour is not the worst.

Quote:
It's the appropriation of unpaid labour that's the problem, which only the abolition of the wages system can overcome. Surely that's what we should be pointing out to our co-workers?

Kind of difficult to fit on a placard though wink

Spikymike
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Jul 15 2008 19:04

So on strike for two days tomorrow and picketing the Town Hall. Unison notices etc out very late but did arrive.

I have struggled to win anyone of the 'non union' fellow workers over on solidariy grounds, they are sympathetic but not suprisingly sceptical about our abillity to win, especially with the likes of Unison.

I am also hearing stories of 'cock ups' over notices to some of the newly formed 'housing Co's' which have taken Council Stock but still have workers on Council contracts (though they are in a minority in many cases).

Still trying to find out more about the wages rounds in these new Co's. Many workers actually got better deals when these were first set up but I'm sure 'divide and rule' will come even more into it's own as the current economic downturn takes effect.

I am going to try and dig out more info' on this issue. You get nothing from Unison so have to do a bit of my own research.

martinh
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Jul 15 2008 19:45

Funnily enough on the subject of "fair pay" the cheif executive of Lewisham council, possibly the country's weakest unison branch, sent out a patronising notice to all their staff saying the offer was "fair". Of course for him it probably is- 2.45% of a six figure sum is fairly tasty. He added that the lowest grades would all get £100 extra a year - which will probably just about cover the increase in council tax, let alone the other price rises.

Regards,

Martin

Beltov
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Jul 15 2008 19:58
madashell wrote:
Kind of difficult to fit on a placard though ;)

Engels proposed this alternative (apologies for long quote, but it is actually quite a short article):

Quote:
A Fair Day's Wages for a Fair Day's Work

...A fair day's wages for a fair day's work? But what is a fair day's wages, and what is a fair day's work? How are they determined by the laws under which modern society exists and develops itself? For an answer to this we must not apply to the science of morals or of law and equity, nor to any sentimental feeling of humanity, justice, or even charity. What is morally fair, what is even fair in law, may be far from being socially fair...

...A fair day's wages, under normal conditions, is the sum required to procure to the labourer the means of existence necessary, according to the standard of life of his station and country' to keep himself in working order and to propagate his race. The actual rate of wages, with the fluctuations of trade, may be sometimes above, sometimes below this rate; but, under fair conditions, that rate ought to be the average of all oscillations. A fair day's work is that length of working day and that intensity of actual work which expends one day's full working power of the workman without encroaching upon his capacity for the same amount of work for the next and following days.

The transaction, then, may be thus described — the workman gives to the Capitalist his full day's working power; that is, so much of it as he can give without rendering impossible the continuous repetition of the transaction. In exchange he receives just as much, and no more, of the necessaries of life as is required to keep up the repetition of the same bargain every day. The workman gives as much, the Capitalist gives as little, as the nature of the bargain will admit. This is a very peculiar sort of fairness.

But let us look a little deeper into the matter. As, according to political economists, wages and working days are fixed by competition, fairness seems to require that both sides should have the same fair start on equal terms. But that is not the case. The Capitalist, if he cannot agree with the Labourer, can afford to wait, and live upon his capital. The workman cannot. He has but wages to live upon, and must therefore take work when, where, and at what terms he can get it. The workman has no fair start. He is fearfully handicapped by hunger. Yet, according to the political economy of the Capitalist class, that is the very pink of fairness.

But this is a mere trifle. The application of mechanical power and machinery to new trades, and the extension and improvements of machinery in trades already subjected to it, keep turning out of work more and more "hands"; and they do so at a far quicker rate than that at which these superseded "hands" can be absorbed by, and find employment in, the manufactures of the country. These superseded "hands" form a real industrial army of reserve for the use of Capital. If trade is bad they may starve, beg, steal, or go to the workhouse; if trade is good they are ready at hand to expand production; and until the very last man, woman, or child of this army of reserve shall have found work — which happens in times of frantic over-production alone — until then will its competition keep down wages, and by its existence alone strengthen the power of Capital in its struggle with Labour. In the race with Capital, Labour is not only handicapped, it has to drag a cannon-ball riveted to its foot. Yet that is fair according to Capitalist political economy.

But let us inquire out of what fund does Capital pay these very fair wages? Out of capital, of course. But capital produces no value. Labour is, besides the earth, the only source of wealth; capital itself is nothing but the stored-up produce of labour. So that the wages of Labour are paid out of labour, and the working man is paid out of his own produce. According to what we may call common fairness, the wages of the labourer ought to consist in the produce of his labour. But that would not be fair according to political economy. On the contrary, the produce of the workman's labour goes to the Capitalist, and the workman gets out of it no more than the bare necessaries of life. And thus the end of this uncommonly "fair" race of competition is that the produce of the labour of those who do work, gets unavoidably accumulated in the hands of those that do not work, and becomes in their hands the most powerful means to enslave the very men who produced it.

A fair day's wages for a fair day's work! A good deal might be said about the fair day's work too, the fairness of which is perfectly on a par with that of the wages. But that we must leave for another occasion. From what has been stated it is pretty clear that the old watchword has lived its day, and will hardly hold water nowadays. The fairness of political economy, such as it truly lays down the laws which rule actual society, that fairness is all on one side — on that of Capital. Let, then, the old motto be buried for ever and replaced by another:

Possession of the Means of Work —
Raw Material, Factories, Machinery —
By the Working People Themselves.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/05/07.htm

Spikymike
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Jul 16 2008 15:05

Whilst at any particular point in time an increase or decrease in the likes of income tax will affect workers wage level, in the longer run it would be more accurate to say that in Marxian terms that taxes are essentially on rents and profits rather than wages and that most tax issues are essentially matters of dispute between different sections of the ruling class.

Spikymike
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Jul 16 2008 15:21

But back to the strike.

It looks like a lot of services in Manchester -Social Services, Libraries, Housing benefits etc were closed today but with only very small pickets viseable.

My stint on the morning Town Hall picket I have to say was pretty demoralising. It was small, made up mostly of the regular Union officials and a handful of lefties. I didn't see hundreds going into work but lots of workers, union members and non union members,did cross the picket line with very few bothering to stop and argue.

I have to say that in the area I work in it was non union members who showed the least understanding of the issues and the least sense of the need for solidarity. In this sense at least, whilst union membership guarantees nothing in itself (and the unions have operated in their usual divisive way) the drop in union membership in some areas does seem to reflect a a general lessening in basic class awareness.

No rallies or meetings organised by anyone as far as I am aware and few opportunities so far to distribute any more radical leaflets. We will see what tomorrow brings.

I would be interested to get feedback from others over the two days strike in other areas.

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Steven.
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Jul 17 2008 04:47

my first day mixed but good, will post proper update friday.

jack's was excellent! he'll post too...

Mike Harman
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Jul 17 2008 08:40

I wasn't on strike (UCU - who probably won't be on strike until next year, and Unison workers at my job weren't included in the strike action), but popped out to Lincoln Inn Fields/Holborn on my lunch break for the Unison rally/march. Met up with Ed, Steven. and Alf, and handed out some Tea Breaks. Wasn't that many people there - somewhere between 800 - 2000, and at least 50 were lefties of one sort or another. I spotted SWP, SP, Workers Power, Permanent Revolution, NewsLine probably a couple of others. A fair few contingents from Unison locals (and one NUT), so quite weighted towards left groups and union activists. Tea Break was well received - even got asked for a copy due to the name, but the high ratio of lefties to normal people made me feel dirty... I did a bit of the march, then had to go back to work - so not sure how the rally at the end was.