A summer of solidarity as more public sector workers consider strike action

Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Leader of Islington Council, at last week’s TUC march

PUBLIC sector workers received a message of solidarity for striking railway staff this week amid warnings that everyone will demand a deal in response to soaring inflation and rising energy bills .

Frontline workers who have been hailed as heroes during the Covid pandemic are demanding pay rises, with a wave of industrial action being considered over the next six months. A third day of railway strikes is expected tomorrow (Saturday) after walkouts on Tuesday and Thursday.

The action came just days after the Trades Union Congress staged a defiant march through the streets of central London on Saturday demanding an answer to the ‘cost of living’ crisis.

Although there were orders from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, not to attend picket lines this week, Islington council leader Councilor Kaya Comer-Schwartz led the delegation of the Islington Labor Party during the march of the TUC – one of London’s few local authority leaders. do this.

“Do I think Labor could have taken a stronger stance [to the strikes]? Yes, I do,” she added. “For me, it’s about the Tories on all fronts challenging workers’ livelihoods and we need to support our unions to make sure the government is very intent on strong that we deserve better. Every worker in the public sector deserves better.

Postal workers, legal aid lawyers, schools and hospital workers could all vote for industrial action in the coming weeks.

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, said this week she supported Mr Starmer’s hands-off approach to action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT ). The RMT is not affiliated with the Labor Party, like several other unions. “We are not confused,” Ms Thornberry said on ITV Peston.

“We are saying we are not injecting ourselves into the middle of this dispute – it is a dispute between the railway workers, the railway companies and the government – ​​and we are not in the middle of this. What we’re trying to do is try to stop the government from standing on the edge and throwing gasoline in there.

The Greens, who hold three seats in Islington’s council chamber, said they stood in full solidarity with the strike.

Councilor Caroline Russell, their leader and also a member of the London Assembly, said: ‘I fully understand why workers are flocking to stand up to get properly paid. “It might be a little inconvenient for some Londoners, but in fact it’s a fundamental thing that people need to be able to pay their bills, pay their rent and put food on the table. That’s why workers use this right to strike properly if an agreement cannot be reached.

She added: “It is necessary for people to strike when the people you are negotiating with do not agree and do not conduct a proper negotiation. The strike is an indication of this.

RMT leader Mick Lynch has accused the government of ‘pulling the strings’ behind a deal to offer workers a conditional 3% raise if they accept a series of layoffs, extended working hours and a pay cut. salary when rehired.

They are asking for a wage increase that helps workers cope with inflation rates currently around 10%. Islington Tube stations were also closed on Tuesday as London Underground workers took industrial action, Tony Buttifint, secretary of the Islington branch of the National Education Union, said his branch had already written on Wednesday to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi warning him that unless teachers receive a “fully-funded pay rise, plus inflation”, teachers will be voted on a possible strike in the fall.

The government is expected to announce teacher pay rates on the first day of the summer school holidays.

“Teachers have seen their standard of living drop massively, as have commercial workers and other people in the public sector, and it is not sustainable that people will continue at this level of cuts being forced upon them,” he said. said Mr Buttifint, adding that teachers had seen a 20 per cent pay cut since 2010 – a fifth of their salary – due to rising costs of living not offset by what they had in their pockets at the end of each month.

“Teachers have made huge sacrifices during the pandemic – but we have sat and watched the friends of government get richer and richer,” he added. “As in 2008, it seems workers in this country are being forced to bail out the behavior of those in authority.”

He denied the idea that the current strikes dated back to the 1970s and 1980s and said unions are now heavily regulated and teachers can only strike if more than half of all NEU members vote for a walkout . Lawyers specializing in criminal law, often poorly paid, voted to strike for four weeks.

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