Two out of three Unison members voted to reject the local government pay deal in a consultative ballot. The yes vote was helped by the action taken on 24 April. These strikes gave a public profile and some urgency to the issue.
The leadership of Unison should take the initiative and build for a national ballot — but they are “less than enthusiastic”. There is a direct relationship between the mood of the leadership and the mood of the members. Without a clear campaign Unison members will be less likely to vote yes or even at all. Unison leaders will then say “the members don’t want to strike” — they create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Branch activists must gear themselves up for a battle.
On the morning of the teachers’ strike, Teaching Assistants in one primary school in Tower Hamlets met to discuss their own pay. They calculated the overall loss of salary — the money taken out of their pay packets – that would result in a below-inflation pay offer, the scrapping of the 10p tax rate, increased pension contributions, the loss of lump-sum payments, higher rent, mortgage and service charges, inflated food and energy bills. It became clear that they were not just talking about making ends meet, but of getting the ends in sight of each other!
As one Unison members put it: “we are not being treated like children, but like the family pet — kicked if we bark; patted on the head if we’re good.”
By the end of the meeting, there was little desire to be the “good pet” - these members were ready to strike.