Thanks and well done to all Camden UNISON members who took part in last Thursday’s day of strike action across local councils in England and Wales. A special vote of thanks goes to those who helped mount picket lines – sometimes from 6.30 AM – and joined the march from the Town Hall to the main central London demonstration and rally.
Nationally, the Tory-led coalition wanted to seize on the action as an excuse for still further restrictions on the ability to hold a lawful strike and yet at the same time claim that the strikes had virtually no effect. While levels of support obviously varied between workplaces and services, there’s no doubt that Thursday 10 July was a collective show of strength by UNISON and other union members that really did have a significant impact in Camden:
- Thirty-two community and voluntary aided schools of Camden’s 58 were completely, with a further 13 substantially affected;
- A 25-strong picket line shut down transport services at York Way, and
- A vibrant picket at Holmes Road turned away numerous vans and lorries, and closed large parts of the main building repairs depot.
In addition, our local picket lines attracted a visit from TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and considerable media interest with visits from the Standard and news crews from the BBC, LBC and Sky News as well as journalists from the Camden New Journal and Ham & High. The firefighters’ union, the FBU, gave us an enormous boost with the loan of a fire engine for much of the day and undoubtedly attracting a great deal of support from the public and office workers along the route of the march.
We shouldn’t be under any illusions that a single day of action, however well supported, will on its own gain significant concessions from the local government employers, much less reverse the Government’s austerity agenda. But the 10 July strike was a significant step forward and could lay the basis for further action in the early autumn with the aim of coordination once again both with other trade unions and quite possibly other UNISON members in the NHS.
Over the next few weeks the branch will do its best both to keep members informed of developments in the national pay dispute and win new members to UNISON’s ranks. Expect more lunch-time stalls, workplace meetings and bulletins between now and October.
Camden UNISON Branch Secretary