The GMB Union is balloting 50,000 members over strike action across local councils

GMB union protest placard
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The GMB union has said it is balloting over 50,000 school and council worker members for strike action. It’s over an ongoing pay dispute with the organisation responsible for setting pay levels. However, some people have questioned the timing of the GMB ballot – as it’s out of sync with another union in the same sector.

GMB: balloting 50,000 workers for strike action

As GMB tweeted:

Read on...

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The union is currently in a dispute with a body called the National Employers Organisation for Local Government Services. It’s a government-created group that represents local authorities. National Employers helps set the pay scales for councils to pay their workers. However, GMB isn’t happy with this year’s offer from National Employers.

As a letter from National Employers states, back in January, it offered:

With effect from 1 April 2023, an increase of £1,925 (pro rata for part-time employees) to be paid as a consolidated, permanent addition [increase]

For the lowest paid workers, this was the equivalent of a 9.42% pay rise. National Employers was, at best, intransigent in its letter – calling the offer “full and final”, and saying it was “puzzled” by some of the union’s demands. GMB wasn’t happy with this – as the Local Government Chronicle wrote:

In May more than 200,000 GMB members were balloted, with turnout varying across employers, with 64% of those who voted rejecting the offer.

So now, GMB will ask its members if they want to strike. Its national officer – Sharon Wilde – told the Local Government Chronicle:

School staff, refuse collectors and council and town hall workers are the hidden glue that keeps our society together. They help our children learn, they look after our most vulnerable residents, they clean our streets, and they keep us all safe.

They deserve proper value for the work they do. After more than a decade of Conservative cuts and a crushing cost of living crisis, it’s time they were given the proper pay rise they need.

The ballot closes on 24 October. If workers vote to strike, it could affects countless schools and council services – as the GMB is balloting staff at over 3,000 locations. Strikes could begin in November.

Unions need to work in ‘unison’

Moreover, the GMB ballot comes as another union is taking strike action against local authorities. Currently, over 3,000 Unite members are striking across 23 councils over the same issue.

However, unlike Unite, Unison chose not to call strike action after balloting 345,000 members in over 4,300 employers on the same pay offer. Unison claimed that:

Due to the Tory anti-trade union laws, we can only take industrial action in employers where we achieved a turnout of 50% or more (with a majority voting for action) and unfortunately while we passed this turnout threshold in a number of employers, most of these were smaller employers.

So, the trade union movement in local councils is divided – with Unite already striking, Unison not, and the GMB balloting. This could prove tricky in terms of being able to negotiate any kind of deal with National Employers – as only some of the concerned parties could be round the table.

Now, GMB members need to vote for strike action, and Unison needs to ensure that it supports its colleagues both there and in Unite. National Employers’ hand could be forced – but it will require collective solidarity from everyone concerned.

Featured image via Rustyrobot97 – Wikimedia, resized to 1910×1000 under licence CC BY-SA 4.0

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