Monday, August 02, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

I make a point of trying to enjoy every one of the 34 days paid leave I get - since several of them are the direct product of an important trade union victory thirteen years ago - when the joint trade unions in Lambeth Council saw off an attempt to attack our conditions of service.

Since that victory, thousands of workers have between us enjoyed tens of thousands of days of paid leave which we would otherwise have lost. (That's several lifetimes of cumulative leisure!)

We won then because of three factors. The first was unshakeable trade union unity. The second was a credible determination to take united action. The third was an active engagement of the union membership, reflected in over a thousand individual responses to the Council's "consultation" on conditions of service - 98% of them supportive of the trade unions and critical of the employer.

These factors contributed to the employer backing down before a single ballot paper had been issued.

We may face similar challenges all over the country now as a result of the "Reducing Workforce Costs" document issued by the national employers in local government -concerning which the Trade Union Side has now registered a dispute (also covering the failure of the national employers to make a pay offer this year).

The trade union side aren't (probably wisely) threatening immediate national strike action over pay and conditions. Instead they hope to use the arbitration clause in the National Agreement.

Given the response of the London employers when we tried to use the arbitration clause to resolve the London Weighting dispute (and the employer-side anger when ACAS gave us an extra 0.3% recently), it will be interesting to see how the national employers respond, and what that means for national bargaining.

At local level - in our branches - we need to see threats to conditions as a challenge and a (potentially unifying) opportunity to build and take united action. Whereas job cuts always fall unevenly and tend to divide workers, attacks on conditions fall more evenly and make it relatively easier to build united opposition.

For myself, I shall go back to enjoying the holiday won for me and defended by trade union action (secure in the knowledge that - while I have been away - my branch appears to have won a reprieve for the jobs of 65 front line workers. Perhaps if I took a longer holiday even more jobs would be saved?)

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


nick venedi said...

Yes Jon those were the good old days and of course before that we also won a 35 hour a week (Queens Hotel agreement) in Lambeth. The key to our success was linked to the fact that the membership trusted the leadership and were prepared to take action when needed. The reprive (as you put it) with the one O'Clock clubs has not been confirmed yet (not as at 4.00 p.m today) unless you know something more?
Have a good holiday!
Nick Venedi

Anonymous said...

u know already lge arbitration response - they told us months ago!

Anonymous said...

We have 35days neh neh neh neh oh and a 35 hours pw