Monday, September 20, 2010

The case for a decent pay claim

London local government Service Group Executive member John Mcloughlin has sent a circular to UNISON branches in London.

Here's what John has to say;
 
"A vital consultation is underway about the pay claim for Local Government for 2011. It is on a very tight time frame with responses due by this Friday 24 September.
 
We have lost over 5% in pay in real terms over the last two years and inflation is rising.
 
Last week there was a welcome call from the TUC for co-ordinated strike action to resist the Con Dems Austerity measures, a central plank of which is a freeze on public sector pay.
 
Yet the proposed pay claim being put forward for consultation by UNISON, GMB and Unite is for at least £250 flat rate.
 
This claim tacitly accepts Osborne's pay freeze, using the figure of £250 that he says workers earning less than £21,000 should receive.
 
Why should we accept further cuts in real pay when the bankers who created the financial crisis continue to pay themselves massive bonuses?
 
Some people say we have to concentrate on defending jobs. That's a dangerous argument – once you start to trade pay and conditions against jobs where do you end? Being weak on pay doesn't make you strong on jobs. And importantly whilst cuts often impact at different rates within different sections and branches pay has the possibility of uniting workers across the public sector to resist the pay freeze. All the public sector unions should now be looking at coordinating claims and possible action. You can't do that on a claim as low as £250.
 
In my branch (Tower Hamlets) we have sent a consultative ballot paper to every member, asking if they agree to the £250 claim – or for one of at least £1,000 flat rate or 5%.
 
Even though time is short I would urge other branches to do something similar. I fully appreciate the pressure of work that many activists are under and the ridiculously short time we have been given to consult. Returns based just on Branch Committees will be counted as representing no more than the number of people at a meeting.
 
To activists I say  – if your branch haven't organised a full consultation do your own ballot on your section or take a petition round and send it your branch asking them to include it in the return on the consultation."

I tend to agree with John, although personally I prefer straight flat rate pay claims to claims with any percentage element as - could these be achieved - they would do the most to squeeze differentials and close the gender and race pay gaps.

However the critical point is that a claim so low as to be virtually worthless is a claim for which it will be hard it build a fight. The figure of £1,000 is no more than the real terms loss experienced since last April by workers earning the far-from-princely sum of twenty grand.

We may well struggle to persuade public opinion of the "affordability" of a pay increase which restores the decline in our standard of living over the past year - but we have to start trying harder to win the argument with our own members about the absence of an economic case for austerity if we are to defend jobs and pensions.

Giving ground over pay by promoting a pay claim which offers too little invites further attacks.

Those who have held back from trying to mobilise our members against this year's pay freeze made a mistake which we ought not now to compound.


Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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