Strike for 1% and fight for a living wage!

22% of workers do not receive the living wage in Wales

UNISON fair pay.jpg

As the ballot of UNISON members in local government confirms a majority for strike action on pay, a report for the Living Wage Commission has found that over 1 in 5 workers in Wales earn less than the Living Wage (calculated at £7.65 an hour). There are just 18 employers in Wales accredited as Living Wage employers by the Living Wage Foundation.

Scandalously those earning less than the Living Wage include thousands of council workers employed in Labour-led authorities. They will be among those taking strike action on July 10 to try to halt the 20% drop in real wages Unison estimates has taken place under the Con-Dems.

The Labour Welsh Government has responded to the report's findings by saying that they are proud to be a Living Wage employer and that they encourage other employers to do the same. You'd think Welsh Labour would start with the half of all councils in Wales that they lead but some of these out-Tory the Tories in driving down their workers' wages. Bridgend's Labour Council, in the First Minister's own constituency, announced it was withdrawing from national pay bargaining and was only forced to retreat by a campaign of the trade unions, who received no help from the First Minister who refused to get involved.

Cardiff's Labour-led council made a big hoo-ha about adopting the Living Wage but that doesn't apply to the jobs they have outsourced to private providers. And it is even more sneaky: they haven't attacked the hourly rate but instead have reduced the paid working week for all workers by an hour, an effective 2.7% pay cut! Cardiff council workers report that workloads aren't cut and council and workers are expected to do as much in less time for their reduced pay. Top managers cheerfully admit privately that it is a ploy to get the same amount of work for less pay.

Trades unionists fighting to end low pay can't expect any help from Labour then. If anybody was in any doubt, Ed Miliband spelled it out at the GMB Conference when he told delegates he would not be supporting strike action on July 10. This probably won't stop a number of Welsh Labour politicians posing for photos on picket lines on the day but you'd expect a lot more, given the £5.7 million UNISON alone has paid to the Labour Party since 2010.

It's not good enough; union members in those Labour councils not paying at least the Living Wage and especially in those like Cardiff and Bridgend, trying to drive already low wages down even further, should join with the Trades Unionists and Socialist Coalition to build a political alternative and secure representatives that will actively support trades unionists fighting to stop the race to the bottom on our wages.

Only concerted and co-ordinated strike action can stop this race to the bottom and July the 10th must be the springboard to further, more widespread action, not a one-off protest.

Wages have been driven down so much that the Living Wage would be a big advance for many workers in Wales but in order to get by, workers on the Living Wage still need to claim benefits. The campaign for the Living Wage can only be a first step towards a minimum income that reflects the real cost of living and is why the Socialist Party supports the demand for £10 an hour.

Ronnie Job, UNISON steward (personal capacity)


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