Thursday, May 24, 2007

UNISON Regional Council report

There was no quorum at the start of the Regional Council meeting this morning so we listened to guest speakers. (There was still no quorum at 10.30 so no formal business could be taken)

Barry Francis (SERTUC) spoke about the attacks on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training, pointing out that he was addressing Regional Council during Adult Learners’ week. The Mayor’s office is supporting continuing provision in Greater London – against the wishes of Central Government.

UNISON National Officer, Mike Jackson spoke about public sector pay. He pointed out that inflation is at an eight year high. He reported on the discussions in local government where negotiations are ongoing. In Higher Education he reported that UNISON members are in the second year of a three year pay deal.

In health the Pay Review Body recommended a below inflation 2.5% increase and a similar offer was made to non-PRB staff. Mike was particularly critical of the “staging” of the pay award, with just 1.5% paid on time and another 1% due in November (worth 1.9% over the year). He also reported that the Pay Negotiating Council (for non-PRB staff) have rejected the offer to them – and that Health Conference has rejected both the PNC offer and the PRB award.

Preparatory steps are underway for a national strike ballot of UNISON members in health and UNISON is hoping to coordinate ballots with other health unions, with a likely start date for a ballot of 3 September. Mike pointed out that it would therefore be possible to coordinate ballots across UNISON Service Groups if local government moves towards a ballot.

Questioners from the floor asked about the slow pace of pay campaigning in UNISON and the need for co-ordination with other public service Unions. Mike responded that there are practical difficulties with coordinating action given the different settlement dates.

David Eggmore, Chair of the NJC Committee made clear that there is as yet no formal offer beyond 2% in local government, but that there was an informal offer of another 0.5% of the pay bill. He did not think the Committee would recommend acceptance of 2.5% and that there would then need to be an industrial action ballot. David pointed out that the National Union of Teachers are also likely to be balloting for action in the autumn and expressed the view that we will not be able to maintain our standard of living without taking national strike action on pay.

A delegate from Tower Hamlets read out the letter sent by Dave Prentis to PCS Conference and asked if we should be building support for the rally on 14 June at which UNISON will be sending a speaker. This was a valuable service – since the Regional Secretary and Convenor had not known of this letter at the Regional Committee pre-meeting (!)

Mike responded pointing out that there needed to be a campaign in support of our original claims so that we are fighting for enough to make the sacrifice of industrial action worthwhile. In response to criticism of the leadership being provided by the Union he called upon delegates present to work in their branches to mobilise support from the membership.

There is no doubt that we do need to campaign amongst the membership to prepare members to take strike action. The rally which has been called by the East London Teachers Association and other local NUT branches on June 14 in Central London is a good opportunity for activists to get together to take this campaign forward. I was gravely disappointed to hear, at the Regional Committee pre-meeting, that the small “Regional Service Group Liaison Committee” (which has no constitutional status) had decided not to respond positively to a request to co-sponsor the rally, but pleased at least that a UNISON speaker had been offered.

Jeremy Corbyn gave the Parliamentary report to a meeting which had just been told that we were inquorate. He pledged his support for our campaign for fair pay for public servants and, in a brief but wide ranging report, his criticism of Margaret Hodge for appeasing the racist politics of the far right was particularly warmly received. Jeremy also called upon those present to keep up the fight against Trident and for the “Prime Minister elect” to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

I shall post this report now and cover any further speakers later.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Jon, why should we be waiting until September to ballot health members? That means we probably wouldn't actually take any action until October, six months after the pay was due. By then the pressure from members to just accept any offer, so as they can get some back pay in their pockets would be immense.

I cannot think of any justification for such a long delay.