London post, local government: strike together for more pay!

Submitted by Anon on 22 October, 2003 - 5:26

By a London postalworker

The joint day of strike action and demonstrations announced by Unison and the CWU on Thursday 16 October is a big step in the right direction. It's high time that unions started collaborating on campaigns that can engage different groups of workers in common struggles.
The £4,000 London Weighting claim around which we are united represents the extra cost to the average worker of living in the capital. It is based on cost of living, rather than falling into the trap of a figure based on "recruitment and retention" - the employer's argument.

The CWU has made a great start with the 24 hour strike on 1 October, which was 97.5% solid. Even Royal Mail could only claim one in 20 workers coming to work. Depots that have seen no action for years came out to a man and woman on the day. This caught management off-guard, still gloating at the result of the ballot on National Basic Pay, which went down by the narrowest of margins.

Whilst the decision to have the strike on 16 October was unanimous by the London Weighting Co-ordinating Committee, there remain some concerns among CWU activists about running a joint campaign.

Some have expressed concern that Unison's campaign of one-day stoppages has gone on for months with very little to show. Others say we should be concentrating on Friday/ Monday strikes which would play well in the delivery offices.

The important thing is to develop the link between activists on the ground, not just at the level of the unions' London leaderships. If the CWU and Unison insist on having separate demonstrations with routes that reflect the immediate concerns of the membership, it is vital that they converge in a joint rally for a combined show of strength.

We need to draw other unions into the campaign and start raising demands on other issues that affect all workers, such as housing, pensions and council tax. New Labour and the employers have a high degree of unity on their attacks on the working class; it's time the labour movement showed unity in its fightback.

The joint campaign is in its early stages, and we can't map out precisely what course it will take, but it seems likely that any serious mobilisation would have to involve escalating industrial action over the coming few weeks, or possibly months. And the political campaign must continue daily, not just get wheeled out on strike days for show. Lobbying of MPs, members of the Greater London Assembly and councillors should be organised. We need more demonstrations, along with debates on how to advance the struggle, with the maximum involvement of rank and file workers.

Already, just a single day of action has galvanised the CWU in London. New members have joined up, more postal workers are taking an interest in organising in their workplace and beyond. The talk in our union is of getting a mechanism that will increase London Weighting in line with rises in inflation. This is as important a goal as the £4k target.

The unions should also argue that local and national government apply any such formula to all public sector workers.

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