Saturday, June 15, 2013

Through the looking glass

En route to Liverpool for UNISON's National Local Government Conference I shall soon pass through the portal which separates Conference from reality.

I think that those colleagues who call the shots on our National Joint Council (NJC) Local Government Committee may have traveled several months ahead, since their policy at Conference is strangely different from their practice in the mundane world of everyday life.

One of the entertaining features of our Conference (well, entertaining to Conference anoraks and geeks such as myself) is that motions drafted weeks ahead of a February deadline appear on a June agenda like some sort of fossil record.

This can be tricky for the authors when "events" have intervened, as they sometimes do. If a week is a long time in politics, a few months can be a very long time in industrial relations. Long enough, perhaps, for an ice sculpture to melt even if it hadn't been smashed.

The NJC Committee's Motion 40 ("Calling a Halt to Poverty Pay in Local Government") is now part of Composite C which will be debated tomorrow afternoon. It "condemns the shameful state of pay and conditions for local government workers across the UK" and affirms that "we must continue to demand and campaign for a substantial pay increase that will return us to a position where our pay allows our members to have a decent standard of living."

All well and good.

But wouldn't this be the same NJC Committee which (by 14 votes to 13) refused to recommend members reject a 1% pay offer which the Committee itself described as an "insult" (Leading, as night follows day, to the reluctant acceptance of this insult by our members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland)?

I'm afraid it is.

There is much to be ashamed about in "the shameful state of pay and conditions for local government workers" - but who is it that should feel that shame?

Should it not be the lead national negotiators of the majority local government trade union?

Out in the real world, where tens of thousands of our members are losing their jobs and hundreds of thousands suffer attacks on pay and conditions, the answer to that question would certainly be "yes".

But through the looking glass in the parallel universe of Conference it will be a speaker on behalf of the NJC Committee who will lambast the shameful state of our pay and conditions as they speak to a Composite which will be passed unanimously.

The greatest threat to sector-level national bargaining in local government comes not from the hostility of the employers but from the pusillanimous trade union side.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good points. But no doubt the argument agains these good questions is "well, we can only do what embers ask us to and if they are not prepared to take action....blah blah" little mention that everytime the leadership puts the question to the members they frame it in such a way to scare the membeship to death about taking any action. So the members are paralysed by fear of what will happen if they vote yes. Hardly ever - pension strike excepted - does the leadership positively go out to campaign for defending our rights by taking frceful action.