Unison mistreated members in local government pay strike

Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said there was a “strong determination” to take industrial action among its members (‘Strike is only option left in local government pay row’, Personnel Today, 8 July).


Unison claimed 500,000 local government workers walked out. But in reality, there was little appetite to strike, and the number that did withdraw their labour was a fraction of what was claimed.


In my local authority, only one-sixth of staff chose to take industrial action – many (including some union branch officials) did so reluctantly. They did not hold any strong belief in the cause – it was because they felt bad about crossing a picket line.


Some underhand tactics were used to encourage people to strike, and female staff were targeted as they exercised their right to work. We have seen employees resign from Unison because they could not support the strike action and were made to feel like they were letting other members down by coming to work.


Our employees recognise that the offer on the table is at the limit of what is affordable, and they are well aware that any increase in pay could lead to council tax rises, job losses or service cuts.


Where there has been disruption caused to services, Unison’s leadership appear to be gloating at the impact this has had on the public. I believe this strike was never about pay – with Labour struggling in the polls and personal donations to political parties under close scrutiny, this was about a trade union flexing its muscles and reminding Labour just how much the party needs them.


Like an arrogant government that ignores its public, Unison’s leadership should consider what might happen if they treat their members with the same contempt.


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