“The cost of living is increasing very rapidly, and our wages are not keeping up!” Interview with a striking council worker

Council workers took strike action in Northern Ireland this week against a real-term pay-cut amidst a rising cost of living. The Socialist spoke to Cassie, an admin worker at Belfast City Hall organised in Unite the Union, about why she decided to take strike action.

Council workers organised in Unite have taken strike action in Northern Ireland this week, along with education and refuse workers. The strike follows an overwhelming vote to reject an insulting pay offer of just 1.75 percent for the year 2021-22 from local government employers in the North, England and Wales. 

Along with the council workers, this week has seen strike action by university staff, as well as the first ever gig economy strike in Belfast as Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats workers engaged in a 6 hour work stoppage. 

All of these strikes are taking place just after 800 seafarers were sacked by their employer P&O and replaced with agency workers on just £1.80 an hour, in a brazen act of fire and rehire. This is a warning to the workers movement of the potential for significant attacks by employers against wages and conditions in the next period.

The action taken by striking workers in Belfast, in this context, is hugely significant and points towards the need for united and organised action of working class people in defence of their interests. 

The Socialist spoke to Cassie, an admin worker at Belfast City Hall organised in Unite the Union, about why she decided to take strike action:

Can you tell us a bit about why you are striking this week?

I am striking this week as the pay rise of 1.75% we were offered by Belfast City Council is a significant real-term pay cut. The cost of living is increasing very rapidly, and our wages are not keeping up. I have found that my usual wage isn’t enough any more for a decent standard of living – after rent, fuel and food, there is nothing left I can set aside for savings.

How do you think the strike action could be made as effective as possible?

The more workers and supporters who show up to support the picket lines the better the effect of these [picket lines] will be – we have already persuaded a few cars to not cross the picket lines. Strike action is most effective when all workers are united – if the other unions within Belfast City Council got involved with the strike I think it would become much more effective.

What are some ways that people can show their support to the striking workers?

If you want to show your support – please don’t cross the picket lines! Joining us on the pickets is a really great way to show support. Social media is also a good way to get involved – please tweet in support of the strike!

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