One hundred and seventeen hospital porters in Dundee and 70 council workers in Glasgow are on all-out indefinite strike action for fair pay and recognition for the job that they do.
Different cities, different trade unions, but what unites these workers is that they are taking a stand against bullying bosses and the inaction of politicians who believe their job is to pass on Tory cuts.
In Glasgow, the homeless case workers are on indefinite strike action over the councils’ refusal to award a pay grade that recognises their caseworker responsibilities and tasks. Their jobs should have been graded the same as other frontline staff in addiction services or older people’s teams.
The porters at Ninewells and Victoria hospitals are on a Band 1 grading – the lowest in the National Health Service (NHS). Porters at other hospitals in Tayside are on Band 2. They are demanding back pay for being underpaid going back over 10 years.
Both employers have a record of using the anti-union laws to declare the workers action illegal. NHS Tayside bosses were defeated in their attempts last month. In 2013 Glasgow City Council management hired a QC and threatened legal action unless the Unison members went back to work following a wildcat strike.
The Unite hospital porters at Ninewells and Royal Victoria and the Glasgow homeless case workers are an inspiration for the whole trade union movement in Scotland, Britain and internationally.
Both these groups of workers have been calling for months, and indeed years, for justice, for a pay packet that reflects their role and the vital services they provide and for recognition by their employer for the job they do.
Both these strikes are deservedly receiving huge public support and sympathy. Solidarity is pouring in from trade unionists and working class people across Scotland and beyond. That is who is in in the red corner. In the blue corner stand NHS Tayside bosses, Glasgow Labour council and the council management and the Scottish National Party (SNP) led Scottish Government.
Let’s be clear; both these strikes could be resolved tomorrow if the elected politicians intervened to say enough is enough. If they demanded the employers pay-up and if they refused to pass on Tory spending cuts to the NHS, local government and public services.
The porters in Dundee and the council workers in Glasgow are not asking for the moon and the stars. Not for six-figure salaries like NHS bosses, top council officials or the huge salaries paid to Members of the Scottish Parliament or Westminster MPs.
No, they are demanding a decent wage and an end to ever increasing workloads and responsibilities.
In the case of Dundee, the Scottish health minister, who is also an MSP in the city, should intervene now and ensure the money is made available to resolve the strike. This would cost around £6 million. The Scottish Government ‘underspend’ last year was £440 million.
Why has this not happened? Is it because the SNP-led government in Scotland are worried a victory for the porters in Dundee would open the gates for others NHS workers to demand fair pay?
Why are the SNP leaders sitting on their hands when they should be actively intervening to settle the dispute? And in Glasgow why is a majority Labour council putting the boot into its own workers? Why are they not agreeing to pay the £500,000 to £1 million asked for by the workers to end their strike?
The common theme is that these politicians have implemented the Tory cuts to the penny. They have stood aside and left decent working people with no choice but to strike to defend themselves.
This has to end. We need our elected councillors, MSPs and MPs to stand and fight austerity, not implement it. Both sets of workers are therefore correct to be lobbying, protesting and demanding that their elected representatives act in their interests.
Socialist Party Scotland and Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Unite and Unison union members in Dundee and Glasgow.
Socialist Party Scotland and TUSC supporters have been helping to build solidarity with Unite members at Ninewells and Royal Victoria.
Jim McFarlane from Dundee City Unison, who is also the TUSC candidate in Dundee West, has spoken at the porters’ rallies and demonstrations.
Our supporters in the Tayside Unison Healthcare branch have also been working to build support for the porters strike action. Trade unions need to support each other in fighting cuts and for improved wages, terms and conditions.
Socialist Party Scotland members play a leading role in Glasgow City Unison branch, whose members include the striking workers.
Our members are long-standing activists who have helped, along with others, to build Glasgow Unison into a fighting trade union that opposes all cuts and has an outstanding record of defending its members from the cuts politicians.
We are working to build a fighting trade union movement, at all levels, which is prepared to organise co-ordinated and unified strike action against austerity. Working-class people acting together are potentially the strongest force in our society. We need to build towards a 24-hour general strike against cuts, as part of a sustained fightback against the bosses and the government.
Support the strikers
In all-out indefinite strike it is vitally important that workers get their message out as widely as possible. Trade union branches across Scotland and Britain should urgently consider inviting a speaker from the strikers in Dundee and in Glasgow to speak. Financial support is also crucial.
Facebook: Support Ninewells Porters
Glasgow Homeless case workers
Facebook: Glasgow Homeless Caseworkers strike