Friday, October 24, 2014

Carr parked

Yesterday afternoon a group‎ of striking UNITE members from St Mungos brought themselves, a giant inflatable rat and a very effective sound system to the steps of Brixton Town Hall.

They are in dispute with a hostile management ‎who are refusing to bargain on pay, whilst slashing conditions for new starters and rewarding those at the top of the organisation.

They came to Lambeth to highlight their case because Lambeth is one‎ of the local authorities which commissions work from their organisation. It is quite right that workers assert the moral and political responsibility of those who hold the purse strings. UNISON's approach to lobbying the owners of Care UK is another such case in point.

The Government however, are much less keen that trade unions should develop (or even retain the ability lawfully to use) any useful tactics whatsoever to defend workers' interests.

In the aftermath of Labour's self-inflicted Falkirk fiasco, the Tories seized the chance to forge further shackles for our movement, commissioning‎ Bruce Carr QC to investigate allegations of "extreme tactics" in industrial disputes - and to recommend changes to the law.

For once though our opponents over reached themselves and, in the final nail in the coffin of the hopes of the Tory right's "Trade Union Reform Campaign" the final Carr report concludes - nothing at all.

Poor Mr Carr has to accept he couldn't gather enough evidence to draw any conclusions and ‎says nothing about possible legal change. A giant inflatable rat - it seems - is not quite the Sheffield Outrages after all (if you don't know about the Sheffield Outrages I'm not saying more here now because I've got into quite enough trouble in the past for expressing views on strikebreaking).

‎It would be wrong to think that the Tories (and UKIP's purple Poujadistes) wouldn't further limit our movement if they could - but for now, at least it simply remains as bad as it already was.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How shall we organise the fragmented workforce? (Not?)

At yesterday's (inquorate) meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council, a presentation was given about the‎ importance of organising the fragmented public service workforce.

This useful and informative presentation drew from the clear policy adopted at National Delegate Conference and referred to the statement issued by our President and General Secretary affirming the priority to be attached to organising the 15% of our members in the private sector (a proportion which will certainly continue to grow as long as UNISON Labour Link remains such a weak and ineffective part of our organisation).

Jobs which, a generation ago, might have been carried out by public sector local government or health workers are increasingly now performed by private sector workers, often on low pay or even zero hours contracts. These workers, many of whose employers are actively hostile to trade unions often have no tradition or experience of organisation. This is a major challenge to UNISON.

Are we fit to meet this challenge?

Absolutely not.

Today I was hoping, as a Branch Secretary, to meet with a couple of private sector shop stewards, from two different branches, in two different Regions of UNISON, together with a colleague at the UNISON Centre.

And then I made the mistake of contacting our Regional office to see if they could come along.

Sometimes you learn the true priorities of our trade union the hard way.

It is not our first priority to organise private sector workers who desperately need organising.

That is not as important as turf war between sections of our ossified bureaucracy. 

Activists can't meet national officials without the presence of Regional officials.

‎Shop stewards in one branch must not organise members in another branch.

Above all we must guard against the enthusiasm of motivated lay activists who will willingly give their own time up to build a trade union in difficult circumstances.

I sometimes think our large trade unions are too large. They are large enough to become an arena for battles between egos and careers within the machine.

Large enough too not to hear the cry of small and medium sized groups of trade unionists who need an energetic response to difficult employers.

The high level working group, consisting of the Presidential team and various others of UNISON's "great and good" (which has been established to oversee organising the fragmented workforce) means nothing on a day like today.

What is the point of the mighty UNISON Centre on the Euston Road (with all its long-term empty space) when UNISON shop stewards wanting to implement the most important priority from our Conference have to meet in a pub because officialdom isn't ready to help them yet?

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Local Government pay in Inner London - Roll out the barrel!

The link above is to the post below, in connection with which I can now report the happy news that workers between spine points 21 and 25 on the Inner London Pay spine no longer face pay proposals which would leave them even worse off than the previous 1% offer by April next year.

Oh no!

Today we learned that the London employers have agreed that the correct interpretation - in Inner London - of the national pay proposals means additional unconsolidated lump sum payments - to be paid in April 2015.

These range from £2 before tax at spine point 21 up to £13 before tax at spine point 25. 

"The best that can be achieved by negotiation" just gets better and better.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Local Government Pay - insult added to injury in Inner London

‎At last we have the details, for Inner London, of the pay proposals, the existence of which justified the decision, taken 13 days ago, to suspend the strike action on 14 October.

And they are worse even than the national proposals.

The December "lump sum" payments are paid from the lower starting point (Spine point 3) and so - for example - the minimum £100 payment applies at spine points 9 and above rather than from spine point 11.

Furthermore, workers on spine points 21 to 25 inclusive on the Inner London pay spine (for whom the £100 added to the 2.2% increase from 1 January falls short of what they could have expected from a 1% increase in year) will not receive the (very) modest additional lump sum in April 2015 which is intended to remedy that defect for staff on higher pay rates.

These are small points in terms of finance, but a cruel insult to add to the injury of utterly inadequate national proposals.

Little wonder then that the majority of Inner London borough UNISON branches have already decided to recommend rejection of the proposals.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

London local government workers still in the dark about pay proposals

‎When I blogged a few days ago about having at last had sight of a ballot paper in order to consult members on the disgraceful proposals on local government pay I was almost guilty of premature balloting.

Honestly! That never happens to me!

As it turns out, in respect of a process of consultation which - according to UNISON's website commenced five days ago - and in respect of which we must have issued ballot papers to our members so that they are back with us in three weeks - we STILL don't have detailed proposals or a ballot paper (see below).

Suggestions by regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris conspiracy-theorist) that the lack of prompt attention to the London pay spines was calculated to reduce the consultation response in one of the two UNISON Regions solidly opposed to the squalid capitulation being offered to us are‎ - of course - wide of the mark.

‎It is, however, true that local government workers in London (in all three unions) are still in the dark about the meaning of the "proposals" the existence of which provided the threadbare justification for calling off last week's strike.

Sent: 21 October 2014 17:00
Subject: NJC Consultation Update
Importance: High

Dear Branch Secretary

I am very sorry to report that we have had problems with regard to the interpretation of the NJC pay proposals when applied to London.  We met with the employers today and put forward some proposals designed to resolve these matters.  They have gone away to consider them and will be back with their response as soon as possible, but in any event before the end of the week. 

I am very sorry that this is causing a further delay to the consultation in London, which I know is frustrating.  However it is a complex offer and we need to make sure we have an accurate proposal on which to ballot our members.

Regional Manager
GLR logo.jpgJoin           


GMB Brighton reject the local government pay proposals

It's not just UNISON activists and branches who are seeing through the shamefully inadequate pay proposals which have emerged from the national pay "negotiations".

The link above is to a temporary blog from Brighton's GMB Branch (a flagship branch for their trade union with a reputation for robust defence of members' interests which has spread far beyond Sussex).

Brighton GMB set out, clearly and coherently, why the pay proposals should be rejected. (I should add that I am quite certain that my friends and comrades in the local UNISON branch agree with them!)

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


‎So, now I do have the wording of the ballot paper to issue to our members in order to consult them about the disgraceful pay proposals.

I don't have the spreadsheet which shows how the proposals impact upon individual members - but that doesn't matter too much to me as an Inner London Branch Secretary as it appears that no one has yet bothered to work that out for us.

I note that the email suggests that I should only send members the national leaflet which I have not yet been sent. 

I think that - like any Branch Secretary worth his (or her) salt I shall ignore this risible direction.

The sad excuses for trade unionists who failed to recommend rejection of this appalling set of proposals have already breached our Rules.

Anyone who says that activists should not tell the truth to members about how utterly unacceptable these proposals are will be breaching our Rules ‎too.

I am proud to be a member of UNISON and to stand alongside the many good activists who have done so much for our members over so many years.

I am ashamed to be part of any organisation which would tolerate within its ranks those who would try to "sell" to our members the disgraceful pay proposals.

I think that all those implicated in this scandal - from the General Secretary down - should best resign now.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

How not to organise a pay consultation

‎Yesterday it was announced that consultation with UNISON members on the scandalously inadequate pay proposals would commence today.

This consultation will be undertaken by branches.

As a Branch Secretary I have yet to have sight of the question we are supposed to ask our members, so that we can print ballot papers, stuff envelopes and distribute same to our members.

Nor, for that matter, do we have the detail promised following Monday's meeting of the Joint Secretaries.

It is as well I didn't cancel my attendance at pensions training this afternoon to stuff envelopes.

And, since I'm learning about "basis points" I may have another way to describe the pay proposals soon...

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Local Government Pay Update - Pants On Fire!

As flagged up here earlier, a circular (NJC Bulletin Issue No. 52) has come out to UNISON branches. Unfortunately it has caused some combustion in the britches.

The circular says;
“Very tough discussions took place during September. These resulted in the LGA coming forward with the initial proposals which were circulated to branches in NJC Pay Bulletin 48. UNISON made it clear that these were not acceptable at a meeting with the employers on 2 October and the LGA then came back with the revised proposals which were circulated to you on 10 October. These include an additional lump sum for those on scale point 26 and above to be paid on 1 April 2015. This is to ensure that no-one would receive less than the equivalent of 1% in cash value in 2014 - when the 2.2% increase in January 2015 and the non-consolidated lump sum are combined.”

The truth is;
Members on the national pay spine at SCP26 and above will be worse off as at 31 March, as the additional lump sum won’t be paid until April 2015 (and of course it is worse to receive money later rather than sooner).

The circular says;
“The Committee [NJC Committee on 25 September] also asked the negotiators to return to the LGA and say that the proposals were not acceptable and seek further negotiations. There was also concern that the proposals didn’t amount to a final offer and could not be guaranteed until the LGA had consulted councils. This is because the LGA has its own consultation procedures and had only consulted councils on the initial March offer. A further date for an NJC Committee meeting was set for 9 October to consider any developments. The negotiators did as requested by the NJC Committee and revised proposals were secured.”

The truth is;
The NJC Committee on 25 September agreed to reject the pay proposals for three reasons;
·         That the lump sum amounted to less than the back pay on 1% (it still does in 2014/15);
·         That the overall impact of the 2.2% on basic pay does not begin to compensate our members for the loss of earnings and the hardship they face (it still doesn’t), and;
·         The proposals are not a formal offer which can be consulted on under UNISON’s pay consultation procedures (they still aren’t).

The circular says;
“Meanwhile GMB and Unite both took decisions to suspend the strike action on 14 October and consult members over the initial proposals, which they circulated to their members. Although we had not suspended the strike action UNISON was then placed in a position where we had to circulate the proposals too, as we did not want members to find out about them from other unions.”

The truth is;
This blog is clearly not here to make excuses for the officials of other trade unions. However, until UNISON had called off the strike action on 14 October, the minority unions (GMB and UNITE) were clearly still telling their members that strike action would go ahead – after the proposals had been circulated. 

The circular says;
“Finally, the Committee [NJC Committee on 9 October] considered what its recommendation to members should be in the consultation. There was a unanimous view that the proposals could not be recommended and that we should consult our members on the following basis:
‘The UNISON NJC Committee’s view is that the employers’ pay proposals for 2014/16 fall far below the aspirations in our 2014/15 pay claim and what members deserve.  However, the Committee believes it is the best achievable by negotiation and that only sustained all out strike action could achieve an improved pay offer.’” 

The truth is;
The General Secretary advised the Committee of correspondence received from the employers which is in the public domain (courtesy of our Manchester branch) and this was influential in their decision.

Incidentally, we already knew that sustained all out strike action was necessary to secure a decent pay rise and had voted for, and taken, national industrial action on that basis.

I shall enquire as to when the next meeting of the National Health and Safety Committee is so that we can consider how to deal with trouser-related conflagration at the UNISON Centre.

The best way to extinguish this fire will doubtless be to reject the rubbish pay proposals.

Jumping the gun?

UNISON members familiar with Rule B.2.2 will know that we are a member-led trade union.

This afternoon we received a lesson in what this means in practice.

At 14.54 the story to which I link above appeared on the UNISON website. It says that consultation on the pay proposals will begin tomorrow. This is news to branches who had been told consultation would begin next week.

At 15.37 an email went out to elected members of the UNISON National Joint Council (NJC) Committee went out asking for responses by midday tomorrow (16 October) confirming that the Committee members are happy with a timetable that will require members to respond to branches so that branches can report their results to Regions by 5pm on Wednesday 12 November.

The circular to Committee members does not give them a deadline within which to respond if they are not happy with this fairly tight timetable (which is intended, for no obvious reason, to match the timetable which the Local Government Association (LGA) have set to consult local authorities as to whether the "proposals‎" will even become an "offer").

Branches do ‎not yet have adequate details of the precise meaning of the proposals (particularly not as they relate to the Inner or Outer London pay spines or in areas in receipt of fringe allowances). Nor have we been told the question which we are to put on ballot papers.

Still, we know our Union has great confidence in us as it has publicised that we will commence consultation with our members tomorrow.

Branches need to gear up to maximise turn out to reject these appalling proposals.

Update at 16.54

Thanks to UNISON colleagues for correcting an error in the post to which I link above (which had referred to the pay proposals as an "offer"). That correction was made within ten minutes of my pointing it out to the Website Manager.

If only the proposals themselves could be subject to favourable amendment as easily!

UNISON local government branches - support Manchester's call for a Special Conference!

Yesterday the influential Manchester local government branch of UNISON published an appeal to UNISON local government branches to requisition a Special Local Government Conference.
For the conference to take place it requires branches representing 25% of the Service Group membership to requisition. This is what Manchester have to say;

“If your branch agrees to do this then send this email to Heather Wakefield, Head of the Local Government Service Group at
Dear Heather
I am writing on behalf of our Branch to requisition a Special Local Government Service Group Conference.
In accordance with UNISON Rule D3.4.11 on xx.xx.xx date our Branch / Branch Executive agreed unanimously to call for the requisition of a Special Local Government Service Group Conference to consider the following business:
  • The 2014-2016 NJC Pay Proposals.
  • The decision to cancel strike action on 14th October.
  • The future Pay Consultation protocols in respect of Local Government pay claims.
  • The best means to secure a decent pay increase for Local Government members and to receive and consider all motions from Branches and Regions concerning the above.
Could you then please email us at to let us know and tell us your branch name and NJC membership as of 1st January 2014 so we know when we have reached 25%.
Thank you for your support.”

This is a timely and appropriate step, asserting our trade union democracy and holding out the last hope of retaining national unity of the local government workforce.

If we can secure rejection of the pay insult from the national negotiations then the Special Conference gives us an opportunity to chart a path forward for our dispute – and if we cannot then the Conference will be an opportunity to learn from the grave errors which have been made. In either case it will be valuable (and well worth the cost – which will be the only argument advanced against it by reactionaries within UNISON).

Whilst those of us who want to see decent pay for local government workers are rightly sharply critical of the majority of the NJC Committee for caving in to pressure, and of the trade union General Secretaries for their role in this fiasco, we have to recognise that the weakness of so much of our lay (and full-time) leadership reflects the unevenness of the organisation and motivation of our activists and membership across the country.

The errors which we are now trying to correct (by securing rejection of the pay insult) were not only made on Thursday 9 October, but over a longer period of time (over we did not organise or motivate members consistently or sufficiently).

The Special Conference needs to be a forum for an honest, serious and comradely debate about the future of our national trade union in its largest service group.

Solidarity with workers taking action this week - you've got it right!

Congratulations to PCS members taking action today in the fight for fair pay and to UNISON members in the health service taking action short of strike action.

Public service workers deserve a decent pay rise – and will only get this by taking action. In local government, our pay has only ever edged ahead of increases in average earnings after national strike action.

Local Government workers who discover that the reason our National Joint  Council (NJC) Committee suspended our strike action and failed to recommend rejection of unsatisfactory proposals is because they were doing what they were told by the employers will conclude that we should soon be joining our comrades in other unions again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vote No to Poverty Pay - the single

For those who don't like to read through motions about local government pay (who may be reading the wrong blog?) here is a link to the views of the Barnet branch on the disgraceful pay proposals.

I look forward to a barbers shop quartet of the three General Secretaries and Brian Strutton singing their justification for the proposals!

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

North West Says No to Capitulation on Local Government Pay

Here is a link to a useful new unofficial blog with important new information about the official decision of UNISON's North West Regional Local Government Service Group to campaign for rejection of the pay proposals which are now out for consultation.

With the executive of the Birmingham local government branch having taken a similar decision, local government workers begin to have a fighting chance of securing rejection of proposals about which the North West rightly express their "incredulity."

The key will be to maximise turnout of members voting to reject the proposals.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.