Last Wednesday August 20th,
150,000 Scottish public sector workers from UNISON, UNITE and the GMB took
unified action against a below-inflation pay offer of 2.5%. They were joined by
PCS workers employed by the Scottish Parliament, who the SNP have also been
trying to fob off with a real pay cut. Bins remained uncollected, council
offices stayed closed, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries did not run. A thousand
schools were closed across Scotland and, in some cases, teachers refused to
cross picket lines.
An extended strike picket was organised
outside the Edinburgh City Chambers which, for obvious reasons, employs many
council employees. It was a wet day and the location on the Royal Mile
(Edinburgh’s main street) was slightly ill-thought out, as it was full of tourists
here for the Edinburgh Festivals. Despite the torrential weather conditions,
over twenty striking workers from the UNISON and UNITE unions attended the
picket. Many workers are in a militant mood after they have been swindled by
the bosses over the implementation of single status pay and now over below-inflation
pay rises. There is also a lot of anger towards the UNISON leadership who, many
members feel, have not fought for their interests in disputes over single
status and have constantly switched positions over whether or not members would
co-operate with its implementation. One UNISON member said that he thought half
his co-workers would be going into work just because they were so disillusioned
with the union leadership.
‘Socialist Appeal’ supporters from Edinburgh attended the picket and spoke to
many of the workers about their thoughts on the strike and the union
leaderships. There was a lot of anger and many calling for more strikes and for
the next to be longer than one day. We sold the ‘Socialist Appeal’ and several
engaging political discussions were had. Despite the weather, the striking workers
were out to show that they will not have poverty pay rises inflicted upon them
by either the council bosses or union leaders.
Generally the picture is that
there is a lot of disatisfaction with the leadership, as this was only a one
day strike and that they also had a strike in England at different times etc.
On the otherhand the strike was quite successful in itself in that it got all three
unions out and was quite well supported. The main criticism strikers had is that the action was very limited and
would not have a serious effect on services. There were calls by some pickets
for extended action in services such as the bin collections so that they may
force the employers into a serious pay offer.