However, the GMB leadership have
not encouraged solidarity but played the
role of a scab union during this dispute. They have issued instructions to
cross picket lines and told their members (wrongly) that they would be
disciplined for refusing to cross picket lines. In Rhondda Cynon Taff they
demanded that UNISON not put any pickets on any workplace their members worked!
In Merthyr there are reports that they operated as a block with Human Resources
(an arm of management), in that HR allowed them to use internal communications
to tell UNISON members that if they didn’t want to strike they could join GMB.
Even worse, they allegedly worked with HR to publicise meeting points
for UNISON members who wanted to work to meet up with GMB members who would
‘escort’ them in ‘gangs’ through picket lines. There is much bitterness and
anger amongst UNISON and UNITE members, not so much against the employer, but
against the GMB, because of what is understandably seen as a betrayal. Where
GMB members have refused to cross picket lines, it is in the face of their
leaders, locally and nationally.
Locally we had an enormously successful strike, but the employers have taken a
very hard line, bringing in scab labour, managers on picket lines intimidating
our pickets and those who approached them, calling the police on us if there were
more than 6 etc. But we had a brilliant local rally. Speakers were the ‘left’ front runner for the
leadership of the Wales Labour Party, Carwyn Jones, who came out a little stronger than usual, the
Regional FBU Chair who gave us £1,000 for our Branch hardship Fund, a CWU
Branch Sec, the Regional Sec of PCS, our Regional Sec and me on behalf of
The employers were truly rattled
by the effectiveness of the action. The Chief Executive of the Welsh Local
Government Association scored an own goal with a vitriolic outburst against
strikers on TV on Wednesday. He derided strikers as ‘living in cloud cuckoo
land’, then told strikers that they would now need an offer of 3.5% to claw
back the money they’d lost from striking. Of course, this only angered strikers
and drew attention to the fact that now the 2.45% offered would be even further
away from the Government’s assessment of the rise in cost of living, announced
on Tuesday – 3.8%!
What is vital now is that rank
and file GMB members put pressure on their own leadership to ballot for action –
they have not been balloted until now. And UNISON and UNITE leaders should
appeal to the GMB leadership to ballot and recommend a ‘yes’ vote to intensify
the effect of the inevitable next round of action.