Public sector pay disputes 2008

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Ed
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Jul 17 2008 23:06

I thought the march was alright considering that Unison made no effort to publicise it. A LOT of Trots (add AWL to catch's list) but yeah, a fair few Unison branches, I spotted two NUT banners and there was a contingent from Unite as well. Got talking to a guy who used to be in Direct Action Movement and generally when we talked to people about what Tea Break was about they liked it. Just a shame we only had a few hundred to give out and three of us to do it. If anyone wants to give us a hand in the future, that'd be ace.

About the strikes themselves, I wasn't striking (unemployed, not a scab tongue ) but from talking to people who were striking the general trend was that well organised depts were solid, and less organised ones less so. I reckon that a clear majority of Unison members were on strike, amounting to over half of council workers. The news said the north was more solid than the south too..

Also, a massive thanks to posi for sorting us out with printing.. smile

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2008 10:00
Tories wrote:
Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that in the first 11 months of Brown's premiership over 900,000 working days were lost to strike action, almost three times the number lost in the same period in the previous year.

Wales Online says there's a possible 72-hour strike planned for September if no deal:

Quote:
As a resolution to the bitter pay dispute seemed to be slipping further away, a union leader said teaching assistants, caretakers and cooks were ready to join colleagues in a further 72-hour walkout in September if their demands for more money were not met.

But the resolve of the Welsh Local Government Association appeared to be equally as strong, with chief executive Steve Thomas reiterating the disputed 2.45% offer was “full and final” and “rock-solid”.

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2008 12:06

Coastguards strike is on, looks a bit shaky: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7513105.stm

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Steven.
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Jul 18 2008 17:34

here's my account:

For a bit of background, I work in a children's social services department in a London council. I work in a team of 60 in a building of about 600.

The buildup to the strike was quite rocky, the timing of it was very bad for school workers, it being so near to the end of term. The fact that it was for two days was another barrier for some people as with prices being so high it's very difficult to lose two days pay.

However as time went on people's resolve hardened. Many people were very excited on strike, not just because of the pay but because of a combination of all their everyday work frustrations. In my department these are predominantly related to excessive workloads, stress, service cuts and bullying management.

We had some good shop meetings in the run-up to the strike, picked up a good few new members and some new stewards as well in previously unorganised departments. So we had some previously unorganised departments with staff getting organised and looking forward to taking action. Some departments we didn't get round to though unfortunately.

During the strike I was picketing from 6:30 a.m. both days. We had about 20 pickets all told, with a peak at one time of about 16 but had four entrances to cover, so it wasn't huge but we managed to cover every entrance from 630 to 1130, by which time anyone who is going to be in would be in.

The pickets were mostly stewards, but with a few people from my team that I'd got to come down.

There was a slow trickle of people coming in, mostly agency workers and non-union members. We recruited a couple of people on the picket line who then joined us on strike. We turned away a few workers in other unions such as NUJ members and Unison members in nonstriking companies such as the cleaner, and turned away a few people coming to meetings, Royal mail workers, etc.

In some ways it's a bit depressing being on a picket line because you only see people going into work and not all the other striking, but when looking at the actual numbers of people going into work it was a very low. Not more than about 20 or 30 went in each entrance, and most of them had the decency to look very embarrassed that. One or two were aggressive and I'm trying to remember who they were so I'm not nice to them in future!

On Wednesday we joined the London region demonstration put on by Unite and Unison. The unions didn't put much effort into publicising it, just some crappy photocopied leaflets are still the turnout was pretty good - a couple of thousand workers. By far the largest group of workers were school workers, low paid, mostly women teaching assistants and nursery nurses.

I helped give out some Tea Breaks to quite a good response, a few people intrigued by the name, before being roped into carrying our banner. Also met a couple of old faces who I didn't realise worked in local government so got some contact details for future collaboration, which was really good.

A common word being used by a lot of people to describe the action was "mixed" but overall good, and that would coincide with my view. The well-organised departments were solid and a poorly organised ones with low or just passive union membership weren't very good. A large majority of union members were out though and at my place a majority of staff as a whole were.

That it was for two days makes it pretty impressive I think. It's been very good for organisation as a whole, and to unite and inspire our staff.

It has also shown up areas of weakness and wearing you to work on before the next one. Big areas here are the poorly organised departments and the agency workers, and trying to build the general realisation that the strikes are not just about pay but about us sticking together. Because if we stick together on pay then we show that we have to be listened to on issues like workloads and service cuts.

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Jul 18 2008 18:02

I'm on holiday and came to the demo in shorts and sandals, and gave out copies of the lead article of World Revolution produced as a leaflet (on reflection it was too long and had to compete with a lot of long leftist leaflets as well) ....Good to meet up with the libcom comrades there and I think that Tea Break is a positive initiative -as I have argued before there is a lot of potential for this kind of workers' bulletin/collective as a focus for militants who see the need for some basic self-organisation and extension and are not committed to the unions or the illusion of building a new union. There was a discussion at the pub afterwards with myself, Steven and Ed where we went round the question of whether or not communists should be shop stewards (joined by chance by Luther Blisset). Steven's account of the strike at his workplace is interesting but I think it points to the problem of militants who are shop stewards reinforcing the trade union as the only legitimate form of organisation, whatever they may think about the role of the unions overall.

There was a lively atmosphere at the demo (despite the crap 'fair pay' slogan) but I thought it was significant how small it was. Unison have done everything possible to avoid a big demonstration anywhere - in Birmingham they had some kind of motorised parade I think. 2,000 council workers in central London is a really small number and I think it shows how much Unison wanted to avoid any disruption of the daily grind.

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little_brother
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Jul 20 2008 04:10

Nottingham reports:
Feature: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/07/404166.html
Day1: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/07/403869.html
Day2: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/nottinghamshire/2008/07/404073.html

Spikymike
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Jul 20 2008 18:00

I'm glad to see other comrades able to give some more positive feedback.

A lot of schools, libraries, social services, housing benefit and other offices closed in Manchester. Main rubbish collection was cancelled but the Council paid the privatised green collection to scab on the others later in the week.

Our Town Hall picket line in the morning of day two was much the same as before and not overly succesful. Reports of the strike subsequently suggested the turnout was mixed.

The Manchester Unison branch organisers did absolutely no prior organisation/publicity for this action apart from one leaflet delivered to peoples homes shortly before the strike. What support there was I suspect resulted from a general feeling of being 'pissed off ' with a whole load of stuff going on at present.

Only one good argument on the picket line prompted by one ex Unison activist having a go at Unison officials about their support for the divisive 'single status' agreement.

No local meetings or rallies organised so no real opportunities to distribute 'Tea Break' or the ICC leaflet (which I had copied earlier).

No sign of other AF/Sol Fed members around although they may have gone to other local pickets?

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Jul 21 2008 23:51

Scottish civil servants vote for strike over pay
By the skin of their teeth, it seems..

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Jul 22 2008 21:02

Can I suggest that prior to the next big national strike,which may not be for a while but is bound to happen, whether in local government, health, education, or whatever, the Tea Break 'collective' calls a physical meeting (or meetings) where there can be a discussion on how to take this initiative forward?

Mike Harman
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Jul 22 2008 21:16

Telegraph predicts most strike days since the '80s, Bank of England inflation targets might go up, possibly an injection of borrowed cash into public sector spending: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/07/22/cnpay122.xml

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Aug 1 2008 11:43

GMB and Unite local government expected to back strike action, Unison Scotland pending as well

Unison health also want to reopen their three-year pay deal. Might all just be bluster but interesting that they're even bringing it up..

Spikymike
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Aug 6 2008 17:44

So as LA workers in England, Wales and NI end our two day strike over pay (UNISON, UNITE but not GMB), Scottish LA workers vote for a one day strike in August (during the school holidays but apparently involving all three main unions). May be some co-incidental civil service action at the same time. It seems we still have a long way to go to get united action accross the Union divisions.

Meanwhile the sorry results of another Union deal on 'single status' start to roll out. Following the Birmingham dispute (how did that end if it has?) our local rag the MEN reported that Leeds Council has threatened 1100 workers who have refused to sign new reduced wage contract with the sack come October. Does anyone have any more info on this or similar disputes??

UNISON is talking further negotiation over the summer on the wage deal though there is no sign of any significant shift in the employers stance at present.

What chances of a united action during September, maybe around the Labour Confernece time or in the lead up? Not much I suppose if UNISON has it's way. Is there any push for this from other quarters?

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Aug 6 2008 19:40

Hey Mike, as for the negotiations, before the strike the employers wouldn't even meet with the unions. They have put out some joint statement saying they recognise "a new era of employment" must start

I think the feeling years they might cave a little on the pay, in return for some attacks on conditions - one big thing they want to cut is antisocial hours pay, which is pretty good on NJC.

Lecturers have been offered a slightly improved 3.2% over 10 months (2.7% really this year), and apparently the DWP have just been offered 3%, so looks like we might get something

United action in September seems unlikely. If the DWP settle they'll be out of it, the NUT has to re-ballot so won't be able to strike until November. Unison are in negotiations until mid-September, so add the weeks notice to that and October looks like maybe the earliest, or late September at the earliest.

PCS are organising 12 weeks of disruption of various kinds, but not sure when that is yet.

After the last strike I think Unison leadership have been told that their plan to hold longer strikes of three or four days won't work because branches won't be able to pull out enough members,, which is very unfortunate. them making the strike for two days did seem to put a lot of people off. But it's tricky.

Apparently bus drivers in London for a few different companies have all rejected their pay offers by about 98%, so there could be some really interesting action there, but I haven't looked it up properly yet...

Spikymike
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Aug 9 2008 12:33

Thanks Steven.

Still hoping for some feedback on the Leeds dispute and now similar rumblings in Bury - I'm sure this Union 'single status' deal must be unravelling in other places too.

Will cross reference this on the North thread.

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Aug 9 2008 17:39

Okay cool

Have now looked into the bus dispute thing. Campaigning for a single scale system for bus drivers across London, and 98% of their members voted for it. However it wasn't a ballot for strike action. They're having some demo about it though.

With single status, a lot of places have sorted their deal. Some ended up with pretty good deals, where workers were well organised, like Islington where only two posts got downgraded, and they deleted loads of the bottom scale points, so minimum wage at that Council is something like nine pounds 20 an hour

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Sep 2 2008 18:14

The beginning of the end? http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=4779

Quote:
The way forward for local government
(01/09/08) Trade unions and local government employers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales have confirmed their aim to resolve the current dispute over pay "as soon as possible".

In a joint statement issued today to all council chief executives, they reaffirmed that all parties were committed to negotiations that aimed to secure an employment package "which is fit for the future, with positive industrial relations, high quality and efficient local services".

And they pledged to work together "to identify ways of using general efficiency savings to improve the pay and conditions of the local government workforce".

The statement has been signed by all the NJC joint secretaries. It provides the framework for further discussions and holds out hopes that a revised national agreement will have been endorsed by both sides and consulted on by the end of this year.

"The revised national agreement will include core conditions of service that bear comparison with conditions elsewhere in the public sector," it says.

Negotiations will be informed by data on the pay bill, workforce composition, earnings and conditions of service.

Bobby
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Sep 2 2008 23:22

some info on the public strikes from the north
http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/4259

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Sep 3 2008 00:15

Yeah Ed the employers and unions released a statement like that when they started negotiations after the strike.

Basically it looks like the employers are looking to trade off a pay increase against some cut in conditions somewhere - possibly on antisocial hours pay, which is pretty high on NJC, from 1.5 to two times normal rate.

On the union side, UNISON is consulting all branches to see how money people will be prepared to have all out strikes of 1 to maybe three or four days, or alternatively individual sections, their densities and how many of them are prepared to strike from one day to indefinitely.

Any new proposal will have to be put to the membership in a ballot, but UNISON have been very keen to avoid any kind of action at all. Any tiny concessions made - even if they're not real concessions since the employers will scrape their money back elsewhere - may well be presented as a big victory for the union. When they did this after the pension strike despite workers actually suffering cuts union presented it as a huge victory and 96% of members backed an end to the industrial action campaign. So if they do this, I think the membership will accept it. A fair chunk of the membership hasn't embraced these strikes, but this just reflects the obvious halfhearted nature of the union leadership. Just simply comparing strike media coming out from UNISON to say the PCS or NUT and the differences become very obvious. The NUT and PCS have been acting militant in order to try to attract new members. UNISON have been half-heartedly saying members should strike while actually demoralising and demobilising workers.

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Sep 24 2008 18:21

Well, it's a good thing UNISON stepped in to fuck us over now. Otherwise we might have ended up having united action with the teachers or civil servants.
http://libcom.org/news/local-government-pay-unions-cave-24092008

Quote:
Following a sham "consultation" exercise UNISON negotiators, backed by Unite and the GMB, have called in government arbitrators ACAS to make a binding agreement which members will be unable to vote on.
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Nov 7 2008 18:03

Will write this up for new shortly, but things don't look good (unsurprisingly)

NUT ballot returned a very very narrow vote in favour -51.6% - so is the leadership decided not to call any strikes.

The PCS were scheduled to have a nationwide walkout on Monday (10 November) but following the teachers decision they have now called off, as they had arranged it on the basis of joint action with teachers.

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Nov 7 2008 18:26

Interestingly as my workplace was due to strike (though less than half of the staff were going to participate), some of us temp agency workers were attempting to get some basic solidarity going. Half of those I work with currently weren't going to cross pickets, another listened thoughtfully to arguments she'd never encoutered before, wheras the rest thought it was mental to get involved in a dispute which didn't, to them, concern us. Surprisingly, this included someone who has said that all the problems in Britain today were thanks to Thatcher.

Now the strike is cancelled the afternoon of films we had lined up is off. sad

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Nov 7 2008 22:34

This could be covered in Tea Break - it's a pretty large scale cancellation!

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Nov 7 2008 22:45

A definite advantage about the unions is that they can engage in secret talks with the government:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/07/tradeunions-whitehall

Civil servants call off one day strike

Secret talks between the Public and Commercial Services Union and the government has led to action being suspendedDavid Hencke, Westminster correspondent guardian.co.uk, Friday November 7 2008 13.27 GMT Article historyA national one-day strike by 260,000 civil servants on Monday has been called off, the Public and Commercial Services Union announced today.

The Guardian understands secret talks between the union and the government led to the union suspending action, reserving the right to call another strike within 28 days if no progress is made on talks.

The strike would have hit Jobcentres, driving tests, customs checks, museums, court services, and also seen the first industrial action taken by security staff at the House of Commons.

Whitehall sources say neither side would have benefited from industrial action. The government would have faced widespread disruption, low paid civil servants would have lost pay and a planned overtime ban would have left them short of cash in the run up to Christmas - just when fuel bills are rising rapidly.

ernie
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Nov 12 2008 23:21

Yahoo was carrying an article saying that 77000 NHS members of UNITE had voted for strike action over the pay deal. UNISON is talking about renegotiating the deal it cooked up the the government. There is clearly a growing discontent in the NHS, however, it is being nicely carved up by the unions.

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Nov 17 2008 21:23

I got an e-mail about 3rd December being the "day of action". The word "strike" is not used once. grin

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Steven.
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Nov 18 2008 00:13

Have people been discussing any other way of taking action than striking?

It's going to be difficult for such a tiny minority union to do much...

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Nov 19 2008 15:20

Well the union wants us to (on Dec 3rd) stick to our AfC job descriptions and not do any of the extra shit that we're currently not getting paid for. For some employees this may be a lot of stuff, for others it won't be.

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Nov 19 2008 20:17

From that day, or just on that day?

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Nov 19 2008 21:30

Just on that day.

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Nov 26 2008 17:39

Union reps at my school have consulted with management, I'm holding out no hopes but wil try to get hold of a copy of the report.