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)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Soft on pay?

Although regarded in some quarters as a dangerous leftie, I think that those comrades who view me as a bit soft are probably closer to the mark.

Following my earlier post on the national pay dispute, more than one respected friend has queried my stance in simply welcoming the decision of UNISON’s NJC Committee to press ahead with a strike ballot without questioning the enormously lengthy timetable for action.

The employers haven’t shifted their position (as of today’s date) since we lodged our claim and – even if they do offer a “pay envelope” worth 2.5% tomorrow – the most that there are now likely to do is to make an offer which they were hinting at in the spring.

Evidence from elsewhere in the Union is that there are those who are eager to return from the negotiating table bearing a few crumbs only to claim that these are in fact the latest thing in very small cakes for slimmers and we should be grateful for them… (or at least that we ought to try them before deciding we don’t like them). Some ungrateful souls are not taking this advice!

How are we to avoid a similar outcome for local government workers, whose pay failed to keep pace with price inflation from 2004 to April this year and is now set to fall further in real terms?

Certainly we need to keep up the campaigning. So congratulations go to Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, John Burgess, for getting a petition up on the number 10 website on the question of public sector pay – the Barnet Branch blog is one of the best sources of campaigning material on the pay claim in local government. As John says this may not be as strongly worded as he would wish but we can encourage members to sign it. For those on Facebook there is also a group to join there.

It’s tough campaigning over the summer – but if we don’t get a move on then those who never wanted a fight on pay in the first place will soon be telling us that it is much too close to Christmas to expect members to strike…

We need clear information about what is said at tomorrow’s meeting of the NJC Executive to be circulated as widely and as swiftly as possible so that activists can consider this and lobby members of the NJC Committee ahead of the meeting on 4 September. I hope we can expect to see such information on the UNISON website by Monday morning.

Update on Thursday evening - this post has prompted a response which makes a fair bit of sense.

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