Likelihood of widespread industrial action increasing as trade unions focus on next Westminster and Scottish Budgets

April 16th 2018

STUC Press Release

Likelihood of widespread industrial action increasing as trade unions focus on next Westminster and Scottish Budgets

As unions gather in Aviemore for the 121st Scottish Trades Unions Congress, the prospect of increased industrial action over the coming year will be a central focus of debates.

Moving the General Council motion on public services, Lynn Henderson, STUC Vice-President, will say:

“Breaking the public sector pay cap is only the first step in a consolidated campaign to restore public worker pay levels to their pre-recession levels. Government at UK, Scottish, and local levels are on notice that pressure will only increase as they consider their options in the next budget round. Workers have seen that working and campaigning collectively can force government and employers to move, and unions are readying for the next round in the battle to secure pay justice."

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said:

“From the inspirational Bifab ‘work-in’ led by GMB and Unite workers; to CWU’s threshold defying ballot for strike action; the EIS FELA college dispute; PCS’s consultative ballot; and the recent UCU strike, it seems workers are increasingly willing to stand up, fight for their rights, and withdraw their labour. And when they do stand up together, they win.

 “The STUC predicts that the industrial temperature in Scotland will continue to rise in the face of further cuts to local services, and the lack of above inflation pay rises across the public sector. Our affiliates are reporting understandable growing anger and frustration from workers on the ground. 

“Collective action is fundamental to tackling poverty. STUC research shows that there is a correlation between higher levels of industrial action and greater economic equality. We take much encouragement from the level of support offered from communities and colleagues to workers who go on strike and withdraw their labour – from the Aberdeen First Bus Drivers to University staff across the UK.

“When workers take strike action, they are not only fighting for improvements in their own lives, but they are fighting for the future of every single one of us.”

Nicola Fisher, President of Education Institute Scotland, which has lodged a 10% restorative pay claim, said:

“Like many people working in the public sector, Scotland’s teachers have been punished by austerity policies for financial mistakes that were not of our making. While the banks and financiers who caused the crash have been protected by massive injections of public funds into the finance sector, our education system has been starved of funding and our teaching professionals have seen their salaries slashed.

“Teachers’ salaries have declined, in real terms, by around 20% over the past decade. When other changes - such as increases in national insurance and pension contributions - are factored in then our pay has been cut by around 25%. This has had a profound and damaging impact on teachers’ morale, and created a significant problem with recruitment and retention in the profession. This is bad for teachers, but clearly for pupils and parents too as it has led to difficulty in securing the teachers that our schools need to deliver a quality education.

“The mood is definitely hardening across the profession. Within the EIS, our Further Education (FE) colleagues recently won a major victory on fair and equal pay through a programme of strike action. Although our FE section is again in dispute with employers over this year’s pay settlement, their recent major victory on pay harmonisation across the sector has shown what can be achieved through members working collectively through their unions. The launch of our Value Education, Value Teachers pay campaign has prepared the ground for possible industrial action in schools later this year. We are determined to stand united to ensure that levels of pay are improved for our members.”

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public & Commercial Services Union, said:

"In Scotland, our union's campaign to scrap the pay cap has been successful. Whether the new deal for workers in Scotland's public sector is enough remains to be seen. 

"However, what is clear is that the strength of feeling for pay justice is growing every day, and PCS members across the U.K. are getting restless. Our consultative ballot last year is proof of this. It's about time the UK government realised they can’t treat their own Civil Service workforce with contempt. 

"We met with the Cabinet Office last week, and we hope for a positive response to our reasonable demand: a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise.

"And if there is no positive response, then our members will explore every option to achieve the pay justice they deserve this year. 

"Should there be another round of pay cuts for public servants, the result of our consultative ballot shows our union's willingness to vote with our feet."

ENDS

For more information please contact Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary on 07891026870.

Notes to editors:

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) 121st Annual Congress takes place in Aviemore, Monday 16th April – Wednesday 18th April. 

Final Agenda & Order of Business can be downloaded from the STUC website

Interview opportunities are available with STUC Officers and STUC President, Satnam Ner (Prospect) throughout Congress. Please contact Cailean Gallagher - 07384216733 or Sarah Wiktorski – 07974966227

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