UNISON have called a strike of local government employees for the 16th and 17th July. I’m a member of UNISON. So I strike. It should all be so simple. In reality I am in two minds and I haven’t decided – or rather, our team haven’t made a united decision yet.
In the whole team, there are 5 social workers – one each in four the local teams and two in the other. Two of them aren’t trade union members, so that leads three of us who are.
I admit that I don’t like strikes generally . I don’t like the idea of strikes – at least in my line of work. It can have an immediate effect and really does effect the quality of support that is able to be offered often to those who are most vulnerable.
We (the three of us anyway) have decided to act together for what its worth. One person doesn’t want to strike and one does. I’ve veered towards the non-striking line but, believe it or not, for three people, we haven’t been able to ‘meet’ formally about it yet and we intend to tomorrow.
And, as we pointed out when our manager asked, he cannot demand that we tell him our decision until we have made it.
-it’s a matter of union solidarity. Some of the lowest paid workers in the country are Unison members and will be struggling and taking an effective pay cut as a result of this decision. In fact, we’ll all be taking an effective pay cut but it’ll affect those who earn less – more.
-the pay offer is lower than the nurses offer and these are the people that I sit and work alongside.
– I honestly think the government line about inflation being fed by public service pay deals is vacuous. After all, MPs didn’t retain the same constraints themselves.. other public sector workers have received higher offers after all.
– Continued strike action might make a difference. It’s a way of expressing displeasure at the pay offer made.
-A one day strike would have been easier to justify than two consecutive days. I wouldn’t say no-one would miss me, but the effects again on the service are much more dramatic with two days.
– I work in a multi-disciplinary team where other disciplines far outnumber social workers. Having an entire team out on strike is sending one message but having a few people not turning up for work is another thing altogether. It feels a bit more just like skipping work rather than making a statement.
-I think the pay offer that UNISON is asking for is unrealistic. The government has on its agenda to cut public sector pay, and local government workers are generally the targets who garner the least public sympathy. Anyway, whatever pay deal we like, we aren’t going to get 6%. I understand this is a basis for negotiation but I think it’s not necessarily honest.
-The strike action could well continue beyond two days over the summer as there isn’t really anywhere to go until someone backs down.
-There is little public sympathy or appetite for a strike.
-On a completely selfish level, living in a household where I am the main wage-earner – the money lost by striking would be definitely missed.
–Nurses have been offered more but realistically the difference between 2.45% and 2.75% is likely to be pennies.
All of which make the Shell tanker drivers’ settlement at 14% seem more than a little generous.
Part of the difficulty about demanding pay increases is that there would possibly be a reduction of personnel in order to budget for it.
My gut instinct is taking me to a non-strike position. I doubt I’ll be noticed or missed and I’ve increasing less and less time for UNISON in general (perhaps another story for another day).
In a completely selfish view, my ideal would be for the strike to be called off over the next couple of days so that it doesn’t become an issue.
Although uncomfortable with striking, I’m also uncomfortable with breaking a strike. I understand the need for union representation but have seen it on a micro level – rather than a macro level. To be honest, it’s why I feel there is a need specifically for a union of social workers.
I also have doubts about the motivations certainly of some of the locally based union leaders – and I don’t like the idea of the vulnerable members of the community being affected directly by strike action.
I was interested that in Brighton and Hove social workers in CMHTs have been exempted from the strike and
Diana Leach, branch officer at Unison in Brighton, said: “We have only agreed exceptions for ‘life and limb’ cover, so for emergency purposes such as residential units, elderly care and mental health services.
“We have agreed that because we understand some of our service users are extremely vulnerable and they should not suffer as a result of us going on strike.”
I wish our local branch would make a similar call. It certainly makes sense to me – and it would ease my conscience too..