Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Friday, August 03, 2007

No to 2% in local government - and in health???

So there is a new pay offer in the NHS, and it is barely more than fourpence ha’penny extra bus fare for the negotiators

I agree with the individual member of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE) who thinks this is not worth accepting. I understand that the SGE won’t be making a recommendation in the membership ballot, which (you might think) is not the very best way to build the confidence of our members to take the industrial action necessary to break the 2% pay norm.

If the negotiators say “it therefore follows that if members wish to reject the offer, they must also be prepared to support industrial action in the event of a subsequent industrial action ballot” then that is not exactly calculated to encourage members to express such support.

Another way of putting things would be to say that “inflation is running at 4.3% and earnings across the economy are rising by 3.6% but the employers have offered you a 2% pay rise. This is in line with the government's 2% public sector pay policy. It's a pay cut, not a pay rise! And you deserve better.”

In local government the Union made a clear recommendation that members reject 2% and prepare for strike action – and the members rejected 2% on the basis of being prepared to take strike action.

In preparation for the consultation on an offer worth 2% in local government members were asked to bear in mind the following;

the cost of living is currently increasing by 4.5%
increases in the cost of housing, fuel and energy, council tax and childcare are even higher
pay across the economy is rising by 3.6%
UNISON is co-ordinating our pay campaign with our health and other service groups and with other public sector unions.

Before asking our members in health their opinion on an offer worth 2% UNISON says simply that “the parties to the Staff Council Executive
believe that this formal offer represents the best that can be achieved through negotiation.”

I hope that rank and file members in health will have more confidence in their strength than is shown by this weak-kneed approach endorsed by the SGE. I am sure a rank and file campaign to vote to reject 2% will gather strength in the next few days and will blog about this as soon as I hear more.

In the mean time members in local government need to prepare for a strike ballot. On 6 August the Pay & Single Status Project Group will meet to discuss in detail the results of the pay consultation and consider the next steps in our campaign, a further update will be issued officially next week.

Branches must continue to build awareness and support with all members for the pay campaign and recruit non members and to help us fight this pay cut.

The rejection of 2% by our members has provided a basis to go back to the employers and Government and ask for more. I doubt we will see more for our local government members without strike action, however at least we have the ability to continue arguing having rejected 2%. Our members in health have to vote to reject 2% in order to get into that position by 13 September – until then the Government can hope that we will swallow the first year of this new policy of pay cuts.

Unfortunately the timetable for the ballot of members in health runs right through the dates for this year’s TUC Congress, at which it appears that any sound composite on public service pay based upon submissions from PCS and the NUT will now be accompanied by a General Council statement. UNISON's position will obviously be complicated by not knowing the result of the consultation in health. What an unfortunate coincidence indeed.

Will the General Council clearly reject the 2% pay norm and back all those taking action against it, or will it equivocate in anticipation of a General election? Experience within UNISON suggests that both approaches have support within the trade union movement…

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