I seem to have spent most of last week in meetings – some tremendously positive, others less so.
One good meeting was Unite’s pay strategy meeting on Wednesday – the national committee that brings together our leading lay activists from the T&G and from Amicus to drive the pay campaign forward. We discussed the feedback from regional roadshows, and agreed the wording of the ballot for industrial action.
The mood’s an interesting one – it’s not that people are desperate to go on strike, but more of an acceptance that we either experience year on year of pay cuts, or we get ourselves organised and fight back. There’s a growing realisation that this year’s pay fight isn’t just about this year. This is a fight for the next three years at least, for the pay awards that are likely to come under a Tory government going into the future, and for our pensions. Less money now feeds into less money for us and our families for the rest of our lives. Of course we have to fight.
We’re asking members to vote on one day strike(s), and on industrial action short of strike action – with a recommendation to vote ‘Yes’ to both questions.
On Friday I was in Bristol to speak at a couple of meetings, including a pay briefing for Unite members at St Michael’s Hospital. The discussion at the meeting drove home the message on why this fight matters. A porter on Band 1 reported that the whole of his annual pay increase has been swallowed up by the rise in his electricity bill – but he still has to find an extra £60 a year to get the bus to work, his food costs more, his council tax costs more… A security guard talked about the desperate pressure to work massive amounts of overtime just to survive on a day to day basis. He said that he’d worked 18 straight days without a day off – and he and his colleagues now end up doing this routinely. This isn’t to lead the high life – this is to survive. People talked about running just to stand still – and knew fine well that if we don’t fight back, it’s going to get a lot worse.
Chatting to people at the end, we discussed how the issues are pretty much the same for professional and support workers in the NHS. The lower your salary, the worse it is – but all of us are now feeling the pain of pay cuts and spiralling price increases; all of us have got an interest in voting ‘Yes’ for industrial action.
Our pay ballot opens on 28th October and closes on 12th November. The priority for every activist is working to get a ‘Yes’ vote.