Magazine article Public Finance

Unions Escalate Action over Government Pay Limits

Magazine article Public Finance

Unions Escalate Action over Government Pay Limits

Article excerpt

The government is facing the biggest assault yet on its public sector pay policy after council workers in trade union Unison voted for 'sustained' industrial action - beginning with a two-day strike next month.

The 55% vote for strike action was announced by Unison on June 23, a day after Chancellor Alistair Darling attempted to reinforce the government's stance.

'It's absolutely imperative from the boardroom to the shop floor, both private and public sector, that we don't allow inflation to take hold again,' Darling told the BBC's Andrew Man Show. "What it means is that pay awards. . . have to be consistent with our inflation target, which is 2%.'

But around 600,000 Unison members could be joined on the picket lines on July 16 and 17 by council staff in Unite, which was due to announce the results of its own strike ballot on June 27. Both unions have rejected a 2.45% pay offer.

Up to 100,000 civil servants could also join the action. Members of the Public and Commercial Services union walked out in April over pay when they were joined by striking teachers. The PCS is now discussing co-ordinating a further strike with the council workers' action in July, a spokesman confirmed.

The PCS members, who include Department for Work and Pensions staff, have been further angered by plans announced by DWP Secretary James Purnell to give private firms a 'right to bid' for the provision of all welfare services.

And, despite acceptance of a three-year pay deal by most NHS unions, up to 100,000 health workers in Unite could still stage strikes. The union rejected the deal and is planning protests on July 18. 'After that, we will be balloting our members for strike action,' a spokeswoman said.

Six trade unions representing 250,000 further education staffare weighing up a 'final' pay offer of 3.2% over ten months - equating to a 2.7% annual rise - and could yet join the summer of discontent. The National Union of Teachers will hold a strike vote in the autumn, when the PCS is set to escalate its campaign by balloting all its 280,000 civil service members.

Meanwhile, local authorities are facing school closures, overflowing bins and disruption to other services on the July strike days. …

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