Friday, April 04, 2008

Local Government Pay - now what?

Now that we know that we have a final pay offer from the local government employers which is unacceptable we need to start thinking about what to do with it. Jean Geldart yesterday circulated a report to London branches as follows;

“A final offer was made yesterday.

It is 2.45% on all spinal points with effect from 1 April 2008, plus an additional £100 p.a. on Scp 4, 5 and 6 (this would be Inner London 2, 3 and 4). The same conditions apply as the last offer: that we 'seek to agree' the Green Book review by 31 December 2008 and that we 'seek to agree' the pay deals for 2009 and 2010 by 31 December 2008. Clearly this is a real pay cut and a disguised 3 year deal - without even knowing the figures for the next 2 years.

Unison's national committee (the NJC committee) will meet on 8th April to decide what to recommend to branches and there will then be the usual branch consultation, with branches asked to arrange meetings and a ballot so that votes can be aggregated nationally. The closing date for the consultation is likely to be early-mid May to allow for the school holiday period.

Both GMB and UNITE will be holding national meetings followed by branch consultation, on about the same sort of timetable. At yesterday's meeting the trade union side did not take a position on the offer, as the GMB National Officer said he was not in a position to be able to commit himself.

I would welcome any feedback on your branch's views before 8th (I realise this is only a couple of days). It seems to me that the NJC committee will have to make an assessment of what sort of industrial action is possible and will shift the employers in order to do a realistic consultation. For information, the Tower Hamlets branch committee today agreed to ask the NJC committee to reject the offer and campaign for action.”

I won’t dwell upon the possibility that there are those in our ranks who think that anything above 2% is some sort of victory and who think that we should give up on referring to the RPI – Retail Price Index and go along with the Government’s preference for the (lower) CPI – Consumer Price Index. Apart from the fact that such views are wildly misguided I don’t think they will feature openly and honestly in debates within the Union about strike action (of which as regular readers will be aware I am an advocate from time to time…)

The “anti” argument within the Union will focus instead upon whether the members have the “stomach” for the serious strike action necessary to win, which in turn leads to debate about a strategy for victory (implying we need some idea of what victory would look like) and to the question of how to create confidence in the Union.

Not having all (or even most) of the answers myself I thought I would start by drafting a motion for debate at our UNISON Branch Committee, upon which I would welcome comments. Here it is. What do you think?

"REJECT 2.45% - CAMPAIGN FOR ACTION

This Branch Committee calls upon UNISON’s National Joint Council (NJC) Committee to reject the employers’ final offer of 2.45% and to campaign for action to produce an improved pay offer.

We note that the pay offer is below the rate of inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index and is therefore an offer of a pay cut in real terms. We believe that national strike action will be needed to produce an improved pay offer, as it did in 1989 and 2002.

We also note that other public service trade unions are involved in action over pay. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) are taking strike action on Thursday 24 April. The University and College Union (UCU) are balloting further education lecturers for action on the same date. The National Executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have called upon their Group Executives to take action on the same date where they are in dispute. We also note that the TUC have called for a lobby of Parliament on public service pay but note that this is not due to take place until 9 June.

We believe that strike action which can shift the employers will need to consist of more than a single day of action and call upon the NJC Committee to request that a strike ballot takes place as soon as possible, with a vigorous campaign to maximise both turnout and a “yes” vote. We also believe that the interests of UNISON members will best be served by coordinating our pay campaign with other public service trade unions, and will require both industrial action and political lobbying and campaigning.

We call upon the NJC Committee to consult Regional Local Government Committees on a strategy for strike action taking the following as a starting point;
· Sustained all out strike action commencing with at least two days of strike action;
· A national demonstration on the second day of strike action, which should be timetabled for maximum political effect;
· As much coordination as is possible with other public service trade unions in dispute with their employers and taking action.

We further call for the stepping up of political campaigning for fair pay for local government workers, as part of a general campaign against public sector pay restraint and call upon the NJC Committee and Service Group Executive (SGE) to;
Call for the TUC lobby of Parliament to be brought forward from 9 June to an earlier date;
Work with UNISON Labour Link to maximise Parliamentary support for our pay campaign;
Encourage branches and Regions to organise rallies, lobbies, demonstrations and publicity stunts jointly with other public service unions wherever possible, and to support events organised by the NUT and other striking unions on 24 April.

We resolve to submit this motion as an Emergency Motion to the Regional Local Government Committee."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems a fair enough comment - don't forget about union colleagues in the smaller service groups either, who will face the same pay kosh.

I think we should show solidarity with our fellow public sectors workers in the Commons, though.... what they're allegedly seeking as a pay rise is more than I currently earn. And such a rise would be great!