Wednesday, June 18, 2014
We can be heroes for more than one day
Regular readers of the blog (Sid and Doris Conference-Anorak) will know that this blogger is prone to cynicism.
So I couldn't help noticing the theme tune to the short film (of UNISON's year) which preceded the General Secretary's speech at UNISON Conference yesterday afternoon.
And its lyrics.
"We can beat them. Just for one day.
We can be heroes. Just for one day."
This was, with the benefit of hindsight, the anthem of the 2011 pensions dispute. We cannot afford to let this be the requiem for our 2014 pay disputes.
UNISON members need a substantial pay rise if we are to go any way to reduce the decline in living standards experienced by the vast majority of our members over recent years.
A single day of strike action may (perhaps) secure a modest improvement in an unacceptable offer, which might even place a dent, or even a small hole, in the Government's 1% pay ceiling.
It will not, however, lead to the sort of improvement which might make a genuine difference to the living standards of our members.
A strategy based upon a single day of action might be an appropriate strategy if our true objective were to recruit members in the interests of the long term viability and sustainability of our trade union.
Since that is not our primary objective (although it may be a spin-off benefit) it is very welcome, in relation to the local government pay dispute, that the National Joint Council (NJC) Committee have already identified two further days for strike action in September.
There is, in fact, a clear coincidence between the action we need to take to improve our members' living standards and the action which we need to take to secure the future of our movement.
Workers join trade unions for instrumental reasons - and a key reason is to secure fair pay increases. The argument for collective bargaining, from a working-class perspective, is that we will never get a fair price for our labour by bargaining individually.
The trade union wage premium (the average amount by which the wages of trade unionists exceed the wages of non-members) has been a powerful selling point for our movement for decades.
In the UK our largest remaining bastion is a public sector subject to a pay freeze. If we can't break that pay freeze with a real and worthwhile boost to the living standards of our members then any temporary burst to recruitment around a single day of heroism will turn out to be short-lived.
UNISON needs a sustained mobilisation of our members to fight for higher pay.
We can be heroes for more than just one day.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.