Tuesday, September 16, 2008

London follows Scotland

The London Regional Local Government Committee of UNISON voted on Monday to follow the example of our Scottish sisters and brothers in dispute over pay and call for further dates to be named for strike action in the pay dispute south of the border.

This decision mandates our delegates to the National Joint Council Committee – Chair David Eggmore and newly elected member Sonya Howard, who saw off a challenge from my fellow NEC member Irene Stacey and was elected by a margin of three to one by the delegates at the Committee meeting.

Whilst regular readers of posts on this topic (Sid and Doris striker) will appreciate that the decision to call for further strike action is a result which I welcome (and spoke and voted in favour of) readers will also appreciate that I am not "gung ho" for further strike action in the difficult circumstances which confront us. I accept that London was not one of the Regions in which support for the action which we have already taken was at its highest and therefore accept that we should listen to the views of colleagues from Regions in which the action was better supported with some humility.

However, I believe that the criticisms that were voiced of the "consultation exercise" at the meeting (echoing earlier comments here) were valid. A visitor to the Committee who should probably have been a delegate commented that, as a trained researcher, she knew that the results you got from consultation depended very much on the questions you asked. Full marks to the Islington branch who added a question about whether joint trade union action would be better than going it alone – a proposition which was accepted by over 80% of respondents!

In general however the consultation gave the impression of having been designed to discourage further action – this is a view which will quite reasonably be held by those activists who lack confidence in our national Union to prosecute this dispute to a satisfactory conclusion. However our active members who voted for and supported strike action need to receive accurate and timely information and to be invited to all relevant meetings – if you have details please share them!

I also believe that, in the new circumstances since the TUC, we have a real prospect of major united public service strike action within the next couple of months. Unless influential leaders of a large public service trade union actively seek to prevent this, members of PCS and the NUT will be striking together (in each case as part of continuing campaigns) in November. They may be joined by UCU members in Further Education and even possibly by UNITE members in health. Since the TUC Congress has called for Days of Action over public sector pay it would take a genius in avoiding implementing agreed decisions for anything to be done which did not involve declaring this strike day to be a TUC Day of Action.

These strikes should certainly also be joined, as best we can, by local government members of UNISON on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall.

There is no guarantee that we can achieve united action.

There is no guarantee that if we do so it will put sufficient pressure on the Government and/or employers to up the offer.

There is no guarantee of anything except that – if we do nothing we shall achieve nothing (as has been demonstrated on more past occasions than anyone would wish to remember). In which case the decline in the living standards of our members has been appreciated yet!

In an earlier post I floated the idea of TUC Top Trump Cards (which has attracted some favourable comments) – I would now like to suggest that we seek out a trade union Thesaurus.

If we had such a tome we would know that in most circumstances the phrase “unilateral reference to arbitration” means more or less the same as “surrender.” (And please note that I make this observation as someone who has recommended such a course of action in the past!)

There were major other items at the Regional Local Government Committee including – first – a series of criticisms of the approach of the Regional office to requests from branches for strike ballots. Activists feel that rather than feeling supported by paid officials at a criticial time they feel that the paid officials want them to give up, leave and be replaced.

This will not be happening - and the office needs to provide more effective support to branches forced to consider action.


Anonymous said...

jon what was the consulation result in your branch. Interested to hear if a branch with a left leadership can deliver a strong yes vote in favour of more strike action

Anonymous said...

jon what was the consulation result in your branch. Interested to hear if a branch with a left leadership can deliver a strong yes vote in favour of more strike action