More than a million council workers in England, Wales and the North of Ireland will be on strike tomorrow, 17th July. The votes in favour of industrial action by members of UNISON, the GMB and TGWU wetre absolutely decisive for an initial one-day walkout , and mark the biggest challenge to date against New Labour’s policy of public sector pay restraint.
A quarter of a million predominantly women workers on wages below £5 an hour are likely to be at the forefront of pickets and marches in many cities and towns across Britain.
There are rumours that the employers have made an offer of 4.5%. These are ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. There has been no contact with them and they themselves are not meeting until 19 July - no doubt to assess the effectiveness of the strike. Let's show them we mean business.
Some councils are going to 'impose' a 3% pay increase on staff this month, with a promise to meet the difference after the settlement. Branches should resist such moves, but where they have happened, members should still take strike action on 17 July as we are still in dispute with the employers over the offer.
Th Local Government Association is just as adamant and has issued this advice to local authorities:-
"The National Employers' position is that these ballot results do not improve local authorities' ability to pay. 3% is the same as the average pay settlement in the economy as a whole, as calculated by an independent source (Industrial Relations Services)."
"...There is therefore no good reason for the Employers to reconsider their negotiating position. Solidarity among all authorities is most critical. The national Employers' position reflects the overwhelming message from this year's consultation. A firm message needs to be sent to employees that: 3% is fair and reasonable; it is all that the vast majority of authorities can afford; striking will not affect the position or result in an improved offer."
The LGA have also confirmed that participation in strike action would result in deductions from pay on the basis of 1/5th of a week's pay, a deduction that has dubious legality.
Local Government is staffed overwhelmingly by women. Take, for example, social services- thse are the people that do childcare, look after old peoople and the disabled, wipe bums, cook food, and do all the other shitty jobs -
Full-time Women employees 106,695 Part time: 155,384
Full Time Men 39,564 20, 593
Average male wage £390
That means women are 63% of the fulltime Social Services workforce, and 87% of the part-time, but earn only 81% of the average male local government wage and 91% of the national average. (The national average wage is £17,880, or £343 per week.) The employers offer is 3%, an increase of £9.43 on the average woman's local authority wage.
Britain's top bosses enjoyed a 28% pay increase last year - six times more than the average wage rise. More on pay inequality.
I did try to find out what local authority chief executives and senior management are paid, but this has proved difficult. Again, from the LGA:
"Salaries, Earnings and Numbers Surveys: Chief Executives and Chief Officers - For more detailed information from the Chief Executives and Chief Officers database which is accessible to authorities on a confidential basis contact Mary Edge." Source
Too scared to say no doubt.
Taking a look at the Guardian's 'Society' section, it appears the average wage for management is around £60,000 a year. That's over a £1000 a week, or more than 300% of the average woman's wage in local government.
Surprise, surprise, 88% of senior executives in local authorities are men.