The local government and tube strikes set for next Tuesday have been called off, though the new deal on offer to council workers is little better than the previous one.
Two key public sector strikes planned for Tuesday 14 October have been cancelled by the unions involved. The local government workers’ strike by over 1.5 million Unison, GMB and Unite members has been suspended after new proposals from employers – though these come nowhere close to the unions’ demands. Separately the RMT has called off its tube following “substantial progress” at ACAS talks. Strikes in the NHS, civil service and further education are still taking place.
In a statement Unison said the local government unions would “consult their members on new proposals put forward by the Local Government Association as the best achievable by negotiation”. Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield added that “these have been tough negotiations, in a tough financial climate for local government and our members”.
The local government strike was over low pay. Workers rejected an offer of 1% pay rise for most of them and slightly more for the lowest paid. Unions demanded instead a minimum £1 per hour increase for all workers – which would bring them up to the Living Wage.
Details of the new proposals are now available. For everyone earning more than about £22,400 a year they are no better than the original offer. For lower-paid staff, they represent a tiny increase over management’s previous proposals – at the most, 27p more a week. They leave the lowest paid staff earning below the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour until 2016 at the very least, when the unions’ stated aim was to get them the Living Wage now. National executive member Jon Rogers has described the proposals as “rubbish now and rubbish in the future.”
A Unison activist from the north west told us that in his workplace people have been joining the union in the run up to the strike, with some areas nearing 100% union density – far better than the membership rates typical in local government. Staff saw the national strike as preparation for the local fight over cuts which they can see coming. People were enthusiastic for it, and were furious when they learned yesterday that it had been cancelled.
There have been arguments inside the Unison bureaucracy over the strike and pressure to scrap the strikes. This looks like the unions caving in to that pressure rather than winning any sort of victory for their low paid workers.
Meanwhile the RMT has suspended both its planned 48 hour strike and its ongoing overtime ban on London Underground. This follows talks at the conciliation service ACAS that delivered “substantial movement in three key areas” by employers.
The union’s new general secretary Mick Cash said: “The substantial improvements we have agreed allow us to move forwards but the union’s core opposition to the austerity-led cuts on London Underground has not shifted an inch and we remain vigilant to further developments and their impact.”