Monday, October 11, 2010

Co-ordinating jam tomorrow?

In the antepenultimate blog post of the reverse order report from last week's UNISON NEC I reach back to the discussion on pay, which for me at least had been somewhat overshadowed by the decision, the previous day, of UNISON's National Joint Council to support a claim for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of "at least" £250 a year from 1 April 2011.

This claim, on behalf of workers in the largest single bargaining group in the economy, who last saw a pay rise on 1 April 2009 reflects the view, also prevalent at the NEC, that our members are not (yet) in a mood to fight over pay as they worry where the redundancy axe may fall.

Since there is no evidence that public service workers who practice pay restraint are rewarded with job security I suppose I should be grateful that there is at least a claim, rather than no claim (as apparently mooted by at least one official of another union).

Although the claim could be seen as a canny ploy to exert some political pressure on the national local government employers to pay at least to the low paid the tiny increase offered by the Chancellor when he announced the pay freeze, it probably fails the test of effectiveness even on this basis. We could exert at least the same pressure on the basis of a claim which had some hope of motivating at least our activists.

The General Secretary made a more considered and far sighted contribution to this discussion when he observed that pay restraint always breaks down, but not normally in the first year. Whilst this does not seem at all like the first year of pay restraint for local government workers, it probably is true that we need to focus on the medium term to pursue the objective of a fair pay increase.

I expressed the view that UNISON should be aiming to co-ordinate identical pay claims (and submissions to Pay Review Bodies) for 1 April 2012. These claims/submissions need to start from UNISON's Alternative Budget (perhaps we should start calling it the Alternative Economic Strategy?) We need to make the macroeconomic as well as the social justice case for fair pay for public servants and - as Dave Prentis said to the NEC - we need to highlight to our members the amount we have already lost from the pay freeze at a time when the bankers whose conduct precipitated this systemic economic crisis are once more receiving their bonuses. We therefore need claims which restore our recent losses (which somewhat exceed £250...)

I hope that at future NEC meetings we shall be considering pay alongside the defence of public services. The Government do not compartmentalise these issues and are as happy to cut the real terms pay of low paid workers as they are to savage the services received by our communities.

We don't do ourselves any favours if we compartmentalise our response.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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