Tuesday, April 03, 2012

High pay, low pay, more pay

It happens that I work for the local authority that was the first to break the £100,000 barrier for Chief Executive pay (many years ago). With the requirement that all local authorities publish their pay strategy, and certain supplementary information, we all now know (or should know) what our Chief Executives earn - and also how many others are bringing in six figure sums (http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/localismseniorpay).

The requirement that local authorities publish such information is driven by a pernicious agenda of the "Tax Dodgers Alliance" who want to use the generous salaries of a tiny proportion of the local government workforce as a stick with which to beat the public sector and as false justification for spending cuts (which will, in any case, fall overwhelmingly on the lower paid). Trade unionists should be cautious about how we use this information for fear of adding fuel to a fire meant to burn our members' jobs and the services we work to provide.

Nevertheless, the coincidence of timing of the publication of this data with the miserable refusal of the local government employers - for the third year running - to make any pay offer can hardly pass without comment. Whilst the pay freeze may be across the board, its doubtless easier to make ends meet on a six figure salary (even if it's frozen).

The trade union side approach to the employers having once more ignored our reasoned claim for a decent, across the board pay rise, with a particular emphasis on the lower paid, represents something of a departure. Rather than a directly campaigning approach, we appear to be playing the (hitherto little used) "pitiable" card, as branches are being asked to request just the £250 for those earning below £21,000 (as suggested by the Chancellor but withheld by the local authority employers).(http://www.unison.org.uk/localgov/paycampaign.asp)

Appealing to the better nature of our cash strapped bosses in the hope of their pity seems something of a long shot - and we are dangerously close to undermining consistent national (or in London sub-Regional) pay spines. However, it's obviously worth asking an authority to cost the making of such a payment, if only to then compare it with what they're spending on salaries at the top of the income distribution.

Better pay rises (and greater pay equality in the long run) will both come only from building union organisation - and that will need a campaigning approach to pay claims as to many other issues. Which seems to me a good reason to support left candidates in the forthcoming elections to Service Group Executives (of which more later...)

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