Public sector strikes: a guide to who’s on strike when and why

Next week will see groups of workers from across the public sector taking industrial action in defence of pay and services. The week will culminate with trade union demonstrations in London and Glasgow on Saturday. Amy Gilligan rounds up who’s taking action when.

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UPDATE, 10 October
Two of the strikes were called off yesterday. An RMT statement confirmed that the industrial action on the London tube has been suspended “following substantial progress in talks.” A statement from UNISON on behalf of UNISON, GMB and UNITE announced that strike action in local government and schools was also called off. The three unions will now consult their members on revised proposals put forward by local government employers. More information about the new proposal from management is now available

Monday 13 October

Who’s on strike?

NHS workers – nurses, porters, midwives – across England will be taking part in a four hour strike from 7am to 11am on Monday. This includes members of Unison, Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). It’s the first time that the RCM have been on strike in 133 years. Following the 4-hour strike on Monday action short of strike will be taken by NHS workers for the rest of the week: making sure that people take their breaks and work their contracted hours. Unison members in the Ambulance Service are also being called not to work overtime during the period 14 to 17 October. Unite Health members in Northern Ireland will be also be taking strike action from 11am to 3pm. The Society of Radiographers has announced they will strike on 20 October.

What are they striking about?

Part of the damage that the Tories are wreaking on the NHS are attacks on the pay of staff. Since the Con-Dem alliance came to power in May 2010 NHS workers have seen their pay fall by up to 15% in real terms. Earlier this year the government vetoed the recommendation by the NHS Pay Review Body that all staff should receive a 1% pay increase this year.

The health unions are calling for all 1.3million NHS workers to be immediately paid the 1% increase, for the Living Wage to be paid to low paid staff, for an above-inflation pay rise in 2015-16 and for a commitment that future pay rises will restore the value of NHS pay.

Photo by Steve Eason

Photo by Steve Eason

Tuesday 14 October

Who’s on strike?

Unison, Unite and GMB workers in local government and schools in England and Wales will be taking action on Tuesday. This includes teaching assistants, care workers, librarians, gardeners and cleaners – though not staff in some new academies that aren’t part of local government. UCU members in Further Education in England will also be on strike, and at 9pm RMT members working on London Underground will begin 48 hours of strike action. Unfortunately the NUT executive decided not to take part in the action on 14 October. Health workers will begin their action short of strike.

What are they striking about?

In common with workers across the public sector, local government workers have endured years of pay freezes and below inflation pay increases. They have seen their pay cut by up to 20% in real terms since the Tories came to power. Local government employers have once again offered a below-inflation 1% pay increase to 90% of the workforce and slightly more to the lowest paid workers (so their pay doesn’t decrease below the national minimum wage!) Workers rejected this offer and unions are now demanding a minimum of a £1 per hour increase for all workers in local government pay schemes. This would make the Living Wage the bottom rate of pay.

UCU members in further education are also striking over pay. Members rejected a below-inflation 1% pay increase for 2014-2015. They too have seen a real-terms pay cut of 15% over the last 5 years and have been hit by increased pension contributions.

The RMT action is a continuation of their ongoing ‘Every Job Matters’ campaign. Cuts being forced through London Underground could see extensive job losses, attacks on working conditions and significant reductions in services, including the wholesale closure of ticket offices. Staff cuts would result in safety risks in the event that a station had to be evacuated. Closure of ticket offices would mean that disabled people would face even greater difficulties using the tube. Workers in the RMT are taking strike action to force London Mayor Boris Johnson to halt the programme of cuts and enter into meaningful negotiations.

PCS workers reach Trafalgar Square on the 10th July strike day (Photo by Steve Eason)

PCS workers reach Trafalgar Square on the 10th July strike day (Photo by Steve Eason)

Wednesday 15th October

Who’s on strike?

PCS members in the civil service and related fields in England and Wales and those working for central government departs (such as Jobcentres, Revenue and Customs, and the Ministry of Defence) in Scotland will be taking a day of strike action on Wednesday. The RMT on London Underground will be continuing their 48-hour strike until 9pm on Thursday, and health workers will be taking action short of a strike.

What are they striking about?

The action by PCS is also part of the coordinated campaign against attacks on pay in the public sector. They too have been offered just a 1% pay increase this year, again after years of pay freezes and below inflation pay increases. PCS estimate that on average civil service workers would be £2300 better off if pay had kept pace with inflation. Civil servants are fighting for an end to the pay cap that the government will continue for 2014 and 2015 and have submitted a pay claim to the Cabinet Office that seeks a £1200 or 5% pay increase. The PCS strike mandate is also against privatisation and job cuts, with Francis Maude now watering down the redundancy avoidance protocol won in 2008.

We’ll update this guide if anything changes over the next few days!

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