Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Being taken seriously by the employers?

I am indebted (as Cyril used to say on “That’s Life” last time an unpopular Labour Government was paving the way for years of reaction) to a management-side colleague who told me that he had read about the outcome of the UNISON pay consultation as a result of someone on the employers’ side reading this blog.

I have myself said that when it comes to the readership of this little blog I am going for quality rather than quantity – but this news raises the question of what sort of quality rather forcefully. There are two things I want to say about this.

First, what to say to a guest from the management side of the table?

Welcome management-side colleague (and I hope you are a trade union member!)

Now pay attention.

There doesn’t have to be a strike ballot. Or a strike.

All you have to do is meet the legitimate demand of the trade union side.

Not make a response which amounts to a reduction in living standards for your workers.

You know what we are asking for. It is hardly a King’s Ransom. In fact our claim looks excessively modest compared with the increasingly generous rewards at the top of the local government pay tree – and positively pitiable compared with the rewards being offered to those who produce nothing and provide no services in the City.

Of course local government is squeezed financially. Since ratecapping in the 1980s (and long before) successive Governments have enjoyed squeezing local government finance as the opprobrium of cutbacks is felt by local rather than national politicians (or so they hope).

But the local government employers have to get their priorities right. Most of the expenditure of a local authority goes on employing people to deliver services (whether it is done, as it should be, in-house or by ill-thought out “partnerships” or any one of the range of spivs and charlatans trying to make a quick buck out of taxpayers money – in the end the money pays people).

If you want good public services (and local government employers should) then it is long past time that you gave some serious thought to improving the pay and conditions of the local government workforce. Meeting the full claim of the local government side is the least that should be done.

So that’s the message to the employers.

What to say to trade union colleagues who worry that about our having honest debates in public, where the employers can listen in like this?

That’s easy.

Get real.

If we are serious about organising over a million local government workers to get a fair deal on pay then we need to be open and honest about our strategy, our tactics and our problems with those million workers.

Of course that means that the employers will get to hear what we have to say.

That’s just something we have to get used to.

Obviously I wouldn’t blog details of a plan to send low paid local government workers to protest at the individual surgeries of the leaders of key Tory led local authorities or anything like that. Or of our training strategy for the event.

(oh no, did I just say that…?)


rosa said...

fantastic post.
Tell me again why the unison leadership do not listen to you?

unionfirst said...

Placing confidential information from internal union meetings in the public domain is nothing to be proud of and play's into the hands of the Tory led employers.
What gives you the right to disclose consultation figures and planned industrial action timetables when they are confidential to the union, have not even been finalised and have not been disseminated internally within the organisation?
The anti union laws make national industrial action difficult enough for the union without you acting as an early warning system for the local government employers.
Shame on you.