Debate on strike action affecting local authorities

We asked for people’s views on recent strike
action affecting council services, and why people felt strongly
enough to strike this year.

These are the responses we received:

Yes, I support striking over pay issues,
particularly in regards to the pathetic pay social workers and
other human service workers generally get and are expected to be
satisfied with. Dialoging and reasoning with an intransigent UK
establishment elicited the typical excuses, evasions, and
condescending “we know what’s best” attitudes.
Before the recent strike action the authorities were unwilling to
budge about their miniscule pay offer. Striking shook things up and
made the establishment stiffnecks get real.
It’s high time all sectors of government act to redress the
longstanding financial disparity realities plaguing the entire UK.
Charles Dickens would certainly denounce this generation’s fat cats
in government, the monarchy, and big business, which
disproportionately consumes the country’s wealth in a post-modern
and neo-Victorian caste society.
Moreover, what would Dickens say about today’s stressed out human
services workers, and the public they serve, who are expected to
bow down to the alter of greedy power and give homage for the
miserly pay fobbed off on them as if it was heavenly manna.
Tear down these alters and strike.
Dennis G. Pringle
Social Worker
London, Ontario, Canada

The strike this year was about council worker
not social workers, we just happen to be part of them so we are
lumped in to this group. The social work profession does not get
seen as the same profile level as nursing and fire either as public
services or gratitude. They are seen as the public friend. We are
depicted as the public enemy who got it wrong again. We get it
wrong each time we leave a child in the care of a family or we take
it in to care. Social work only gets seen as doing this role
despite the wide breath of service we provide.
Strike action was supported because of the need to move the hourly
rate up from the basic to just above in most cases. The 3 per
cent was worth 13p per day or £1 per day depending on your
yearly wage with most deserving individuals tending to only get the
low end as pro rota.

Why people strike was motivated by years of justification from
government to manage our poor wage increases, the tendency to have
the increase with-in the public sector used as a measure to hold
wages under control, and all the time not progress pass the
inflation figure. For the past few years council tax increases have
out-stripped each and every pay deal. Petrol and insurance
increases have done the same. I don’t think that it’s unreasonable
to be paid an amount in respect of the professional job that I and
others do.”

Graham Froom
Care Manager 

Fareham SSD  


I would suggest local government workers
have been on strike this year and not other years because they had
great expectations of the Labour Government when they came into
power, and understood that they needed a period to consolidate that
win. However, enough time has now elapsed for the government to
turn to local government pay and staff have now realised they are
going to do nothing.

I am deeply disappointed that Unison has even put this offer on
the table. I feel totally let down, and not for the first time. The
SSA this year allowed for a 3.5 per cent rise anyway: the current
offer doesn’t even give grades over scale 4 that! and it ties us
into a two year deal.

In my local authority, the extra help for low paid workers
affects precisely 15 members of the branch!!

Everyone I have spoken to feel as indignant as myself and
intends to turn the offer down. In addition, I work across two
social work teams, and we have decided for a meeting with our
branch to open up talks about eroded differentials.

We fail to understand why local government workers are asked to
forego increases to benefit those at the bottom of the scale:  this
doesn’t happen to nurses, police, firepersons etc.  Do people think
we don’t have families to support, mortgages to pay, utility bills
to meet etc., etc. etc.?

Kate Kelly

The issue is a gender one. The social care
profession is staffed predominantly by women. Women generally have
multiple roles to fulfil, and many are forced to take on low paid,
insecure jobs to fit in
responsibilities, especially lone parents and informal carers. 

Elderly women form the largest group that are in receipt of
income support, with older women living alone over represented in
the very low income group. 
White, middle class, male centred ideology of women’s roles and the
low worth historically attributed to the caring role, still persist
and will remain so as long as women remain unfairly represented in
the House of Commons. Strike action can only cause more hardship
and distress to the most vulnerable
people in society, which includes disabled people, lone parents and
children, which I find unacceptable.  

Action is however, absolutely necessary to bring about change.
Women represent half of the population. I believe their organised
lobbying, mass demonstrations, tackling councillors and MPs and
using their vote appropriately/tactically will have more of an

I believe strike action is being taken now rather than
previously, because there are more financial pressures on families.
There are more single parent households, more desperate people who
are fed up with living in poverty forced to work for low pay (like
local authority workers) because of their
personal situations.

Val Clarke,


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