Public sector pay disputes

Pay: the cap doesn't fit

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Labour’s stunning result in the general election has changed the mood in Britain, writes Mark L Thomas. The new found confidence of workers to challenge Tory rule needs to translate into action.

Public sector pay has moved to the centre of political debate. This poses a pivotal question — will the new confidence inside the left and the wider labour movement move beyond the ballot box and the Labour Party and into an increased level of struggle in the workplace?

Finding our voice

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On occasion I get mail (some of it signed) telling me to stick to union issues and stay out of politics.

But what a hospital cleaner, tanker driver or civil servant gets paid compared to, say, a commodities trader or chief executive of a bank is political. And the government's policy of holding down public sector wages in a time of rampant inflation has made it doubly so.

The TUC Congress this year was characterised by a sense of crisis, with many thinking Labour would lose the next election. This raised questions about how to respond and whether alternatives to Labour were possible.

Pay Freeze: Learn from the past to shape the future

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As increasing numbers of workers take action over pay Charlie Kimber examines the political dimension of the strikes and looks at the lessons we can learn from the past.

Class struggle is on the rise. In the first 11 months of Gordon Brown's premiership there were over 900,000 strike days, almost three times the number in the same period in the previous year. These figures do not include the big local government action in July.

The crisis fuels discontent

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Global economic turmoil has led to food riots abroad and spiralling inflation in Britain. Michael Bradley and Judith Orr report on the growing resentment towards the crisis-ridden Labour government

Where did it all go wrong for Gordon Brown? Was it his failure to call a general election last October? Was it the attempt to impose a pay freeze? Was it the vote in parliament to extend detention without trial to 42 days? Just one year into Brown's premiership a recent Gallup poll showed Labour's popularity at its lowest ebb of support since Gallup first asked people to declare their voting intention in 1943. The government is in a crisis that appears out of control and the central issue that is derailing Brown is the economic crisis.

Pay, the fightback... and how much do you spend on your horse?

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Many workers are gaining confidence to join the resistance to pay cuts and privatisation. Charlie Kimber assesses the pressure on Gordon Brown from below.

The fallout from the tremendous strikes and rallies on 24 April is continuing. Those who struck then are debating doing it again. Some of those who did not strike are discussing getting involved. And many others look on, wishing their own union leaders could be won to such action.

UCU strike ballot: Time to pay up

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Some 45,000 Further and Adult Education lecturers in the University College Union (UCU) are being balloted for strike action over pay alongside teachers on 24 April.

Some may say that there is nothing unusual about that when lecturers in this sector have probably taken more one-day strikes over the past 15 years than most workers. However, this time it is different.

We are used to getting insulting pay deals, but like other public sector workers this year we face a pay cut. Lecturers have seen principals' pay rise 50 percent faster than theirs since 2002. Last year we were offered 2.5 percent. On average, principals awarded themselves 4.5 percent on an average salary of £100,000.

Schools out!

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The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is preparing to ballot over 200,000 members in England and Wales for strike action against below inflation pay rises.

The ballot starts on 28 February and NUT activists are confident that it will lead to the first national strike by teachers in more than 20 years, on Thursday 24 April.

The decision to ballot was taken after the government announced a recommendation from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that teachers should get an increase of 2.45 percent in their pay in September 2008. This would be the first year of a three-year pay deal, which would see below inflation pay rises until 2010.

A striking tale

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I've been a fully paid up member of Unison for 19 years. And until we took action for eight weeks against the single status process at the end of last year, I had never even been on strike.

Initially I became a steward because no one else would do it. In the process of the strike I have really become a steward because I want to be one and I believe in the power of unions to protect workers.

Because Christmas was approaching and the workforce in day services is predominately women, it was assumed that we would cave in and go back to work after a week or two. But, as one of the male strikers said, "they didn't reckon on the strength of a group of women together". It was that strength that sustained us through the strike.

Building an alternative to New Labour

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As Gordon Brown's neoliberal attacks on workers intensify, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil servants' union, outlines his vision for a fighting left in Britain today

The Tories, once thought by many to have been consigned to opposition for at least a generation, are gaining in the polls. The genuine hope that Labour would begin the long overdue process of reversing the effects of 18 years of Tory rule brought their 1997 landslide victory. But ten years on there is widespread disappointment and, arguably, we have a government in crisis. Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair - but with little evident effect or result in terms of government direction.

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