UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Southampton City Council - selective action sustaining pressure on an intransigent employer

Yesterday's 24 hour strike by UNISON and Unite members in social work and street cleansing respectively was the latest phase of joint union action in a long running dispute against pay cuts. As public sector unions consider strategic industrial action beyond the one day national pensions strike planned for 30 November, the fighting example of Southampton merits consideration:


"To have everybody out for one day does not give us anything when you can have individual sections [of employees] out separately for days at a time," said Andy Straker, a UNISON regional official.

"We could not have called everybody out for 12 weeks. No one would have done it, but this keeps the pressure on. During the summer it looked like the whole of Southampton was on strike," he added, referring to a series of walkouts since May.

If national union leaders heed the lessons from Southampton, the national day of action planned for 30 November featuring up to 3 million workers from the main health, education, local government and civil service unions will be a one-off, to be followed by individually tailored walkouts and work-to-rule protests of the kind seen in Southampton.

"Selective, targeted action is working in Southampton," said Mark Wood, a Unite officer at the council, pointing to the opening of peace talks next week, although the council said it had offered numerous peace proposals already.

"It has brought them back to the negotiating table. We don't think a one-day all-out strike will resolve the strike, but a mixture of that with targeted action can work," Wood added.

"November 30 will be an all-out strike, which will have an effect politically, but at the end of the day it will not resolve the pension dispute.

"We are going to have to be much more strategic and selective in the way we fight the government cuts."