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Letter to the Editor: why it’s right to strike

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Dear Editor,

This December there are 30 days of strikes planned, backed by 11 of the country’s biggest unions: Unite, Unison, GMB, CWU, RMT, PCS, The Royal College of Nursing and the National  Education Union. 

First and foremost, let me make it clear: striking is an act of last resort. No-one willingly  goes on strike – it is costly, difficult and emotionally hard on those striking. Above all  striking is a huge sacrifice that takes a lot of personal courage, determination and effort. 

Legal rules around striking mean that a strike needs support from over 40% of eligible union  members for it to even happen. So when a strike is called there is always a very good reason  for it. 

In recent weeks we have seen strikes from our Royal Mail posties, BT Openreach workers,  rail workers and now nurses and teachers. 

There are many different reasons for the strikes we are seeing – not all are about pay but it’s  a hard fact that worker’s pay has seen very little movement since 2010 and some workers,  for example NHS nurses, are now earning less than they did ten years ago. Yet the cost of  living keeps going up and up. 

So do the profits. Shareholders and CEOs are reaping the benefits of wage suppression, with  take home pay for Chief execs and dividends for investors going through the roof. It’s this  inequality that is so unfair and paying dividends instead of wages is taking advantage of the  very people whose efforts are generating those profits in the first place. 

Political talk about tightening our belts and managing our spending don’t hold water when  it’s only those on the frontline that are expected to live by these rules. It is time for  everyone to play their part, which means paying taxes and paying fair wages to employees. 

Meanwhile we have increasing energy costs, escalating food prices and unaffordable rents  taking a bigger and bigger bite out of our weekly wages. Add to that job insecurity, zero-

hours contracts, flexible working and on-demand shift patterns and there is a crisis brewing  here. 

Front line workers: rail drivers and guards, posties, nurses and teachers – these hard  working people took care of us all when the country was facing the pandemic, giving  everything – even their lives in some cases – to keep our essential services running. Now they  are asking for us to take care of them. 

It’s not always about pay though. Take my colleagues down at Müller who have been on  strike over changes to their rotas which see the management of this “family friendly”  company telling their drivers that they must work every single weekend of the year, with  next to no chance of any time with their own families, not even once a month. That is  plainly unfair and unreasonable. 

What’s more it’s a direct breach of the agreement they signed up to with my union Unite and we are challenging this at the highest levels. 

Paying workers a reasonable wage is good for everyone. Every last pound of that pay packet  goes straight back into the local economy – it’s not salted away in some offshore vault.  What’s more workers pay their taxes, which means more of their money goes back into  public services. Investing in workers is investing in this country. 

Unions are good for us all – they gave us the weekends, they brought an end to child labour,  they gave us bank holidays, minimum wages, sick pay, redundancy and paid  maternity/paternity leave, not to mention improved health and safety in the workplace.  Every single person in this country has had their lives improved by the efforts – hard fought  for and won – of our unions over the years. Collective bargaining is important and the right  to withdraw our labour is often the only way for us workers to be heard. We owe it to  striking workers to give them our full support. 

Unions stand for better working conditions, for safer conditions for everyone and they make  this country a better place to live and work in. 

It’s time to stand by your union and if you haven’t joined one yet, sign up now. There’s a  union for everyone, whether you are in work or not, employed, self-employed or retired. 

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-a-union

Cllr Trevor Hall (Community Independents, Dursley) 

Cllr Doina Cornell (Community Independents, Dursley) 

Cllr Robin Drury-Layfield (Community Independents, Rodborough) 

Cllr Colin Fryer (Community Independents, Cam West) 

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