Support workers at Bron Afon Community Housing in Cwmbran have begun their second 5-day strike in as many weeks, as the Unison members escalate their action to send a message to management that £3000 pay cuts will not be accepted lying down.
Strikers have been boosted by visitors from PCS, Cardiff Trades Council, Newport Trades Council, Caerphilly Trades Council and other organisations, and by messages of support from service users – one of whom said she “owed her life” to the workers, Cerith Griffiths, Wales Secretary of the FBU, and a certain Jeremy Corbyn, who urged management to “direct all their energy” to resolve the dispute. Manyof the strikers were visibly moved.
One worker told The Socialist, “The pay cuts are bad enough, but they also want to take us out of collective bargaining and give us spot salaries, so we’re no longer entitled to any incremental pay increases. It’s obvious to us, and increasingly obvious to the rest of the staff, that Bron Afon plans to do the same to other workers if they get away with it with us.”
No doubt other third-sector organisations will jump on the bandwagon if it appears to be picking up momentum. That’s why broadening the action makes sense: disputes are developing between Bron Afon management and other sections of their workforce, some of whom are reportedly being pressured to do the work of strikers. Bringing more workers out on strike would terrify management, who already nervous at the display of determination by those currently taking action.
But although Bron Afon is a particular severe case of cuts to workers’ living standards, its far from the only case. If other outsourced and council workers were inspired to follow the lead shown by those at Bron Afon, a movement could be built to end the relentless driving down of our pay and living standards.