Friday, September 04, 2009

The non-pay elements of the local government pay offer

A busy week at work has kept me from the blog (and clearly drained me of all inspiration when it comes to the titles of blog posts...)

Yesterday I was pleased to visit the Islington branch to speak about the consultative ballot on local government pay.

I voted to reject the offer (in line with the recommendation of the Branch Committee) but having spoken to comrades in a number of other branches I think it is reasonable to predict that there will be a majority to accept the employers’ offer (in line with the national recommendation).

This will focus attention on the non-pay elements of the offer. The additional day’s leave is – as I have observed previously - only on offer (as part of the national proposal) to those in receipt of no more than the national minimum amount of annual leave.

However, with all our local authority employers having budgeted for more than the likely cost of the probable pay settlement the time must be right for coordinated claims for additional leave.

This is certainly more constructive than the daft idea (currently being floated locally) that employees should be able to “buy” additional leave (i.e. that we should be able to take unpaid leave as we already are…)

The other element of the offer is the suggestion that the National Joint Council will come up with some guidance on handling redundancies. I have spent large chunks of this week dealing both with negotiations on a redundancy policy and arguments about the application of the existing policy. I was therefore pleased to hear another Branch Secretary express the reservations which I instinctively have about national guidelines on this topic.

I’d be interested in the thinking on the trade union side about this element of the proposals from our employers. With the prospect of significant job losses over the next couple of years (and beyond) we certainly need to be sharing best practice between branches. Will NJC guidelines help us with this?

We also need to see firm and wholehearted support for branches forced to take strike action in defence of jobs, as will our members at London Metropolitan University and Tower Hamlets College (in the latter case alongside UCU members on indefinite strike).

Branches in the front line need support – and I’ll certainly be asking at the next NEC what UNISON at Regional and national level is doing (or not doing) to support branches such as Barnet, who are being given a foretaste of what is in store for many of us after the next General Election (and responding!).

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