Delegates at the Unison union conference in Liverpool last month

The Unison union’s strike ballot of almost 350,000 council and school workers in England and Wales has shown big majorities for action—but very few results that beat the thresholds of the anti‑union laws.

Over 108,000 union ­members voted for an aggregate turnout of more than 31 percent. And 81,864 voted “yes” for action—a 75 percent yes vote of those who voted. Before the most recent anti-strike laws this could have led to widespread strikes.

But over 50 percent of workers have to take part in a ballot for it to meet the anti‑union law demands. Voting was ­“disaggregated”—counted employer by employer rather than an overall figure.

No employers with more than 2,000 members passed the threshold. One employer with more than 1,500 members passed the threshold—Knowsley in the north west of England.

One further employer with more than 1,000 members passed the threshold—­Lambeth in south London. The total number of Unison members covered by a ­mandate for action is 10,013. Unison had called for a pay increase of inflation plus 2 percent.

The employers offered a flat rate increase of £1,925—with less for part-time and term-time workers.

But many workers had no faith in Unison winning more than this based on past performance. And the union leaders’ sidelining of activists has weakened local structures needed to generate a big turnout.

Unison should calls trikes where it can and use them to encourage further action in the future. But the crucial lesson is that grassroots structures have to grow to challenge the lack of a lead from the top.

‘We’ll teach the bosses a lesson’

Furious refuse workers in Leicestershire voted for a two‑week all-strike on picket lines on Monday. Around 40 refuse, and grounds maintenance workers in the GMB union working for Blaby district council are striking for a  15 percent pay rise.

Managers refused to negotiate and have used agency workers in an attempt to undermine the strikes.

In response to this one worker argued that it would be much better if they went on an all-out strike. Workers then voted unanimously on the picket line to have two weeks of continuous strikes.

“We’re treated like scum on low pay. We’ve had enough. We want to teach them a lesson,” said one of the strikers.

Christine Lewis

Strikers refuse to take rubbish pay cuts

Refuse workers at Canterbury council began a strike last Wednesday after the bosses at outsourcing company Canenco only offered them a tiny pay rise. The GMB union members unanimously rejected this latest pay offer.

Workers had a mandate to strike from April of this year, but the union delayed action for talks with the employers. The talks didn’t lead to anything meaningful and workers moved to strike. They plan further strikes throughout July.

Meanwhile, refuse workers in Dartford in Kent are not satisfied with a below inflation 8 percent pay rise.

Workers, who are employed by outsourcer Urbaser and work for Dartford borough council, voted to strike earlier this month.  The GMB union members are planning to strike for higher pay at the end of this month.

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