Local government workers in London are currently fighting for a much-needed increase in London weighting. What with crazy house prices and rents, we simply have to get decent pay.
So far, the dispute has been under union leadership control. It has been 100% lawful and official - hence we have not yet achieved victory. We need to increase the pressure on the employers and try to win, and win quickly. We need to organise solidarity action, even if this does not have the official approval of union leaders. The first step is GMB and TGWU members not crossing UNISON picket lines. By doing this we can show the management that we are a united, determined workforce. If solidarity action escalates, they will have to give ground on the pay claim. But if they see people crossing picket lines, they will think they have the green light to reduce our wages and conditions.
If we are going to win, we need to go further in future and organise our disputes entirely ourselves. Members of all three local government unions (GMB, TGWU and UNISON) will need to take unofficial action together. A good example of success with this type of approach occurred in November, when postal workers won an unofficial dispute against victimisation and attacks on working conditions.
Workers in unofficial disputes do not need to follow the trade union laws that prevent effective action being taken. When workers take official action the law says they have to give a lengthy period of notice. This means the bosses have time to organise scabbing and bully the workers into not striking. Going on unofficial strike gives us the element of surprise and has a much bigger impact on the management.
Unofficial disputes require organisation by the rank and file. This means setting up a union structure at workplace level that is independent from the union leadership. This is not about being ‘anti-union' - because the workers are the union! We just want our organisation to be more effective. If you want to do this it means organising workplace assemblies to decide on what the issues are and how to fight them.