Thursday, October 09, 2014

Local Government Workers - After 9 October 2014 - Don't Mourn - Organise!

It’s a terrible old cliché, but without doubt true, that after today’s meeting of UNISON’s National Joint Council (NJC) Committee gave lay approval (by 20 votes to 9) to what is arguably the worst outcome to local government pay negotiations ever by voting to suspend strike action, it is essential that those of us outraged by this dereliction of duty on the part of the majority of that Committee need not to mourn, but to organise.

We must do our best to reject these appallingly inadequate proposals and to resurrect a campaign for fair pay in the New Year, when it will put precisely the political pressure upon our employers which we need, and which some in our ranks have sought to avoid.

I won’t repeat here what I have already said about how the employers’ proposals are worse than their previous offer in this pay year, nor about how much they are against our members’ interests in 2015/16. I won’t even repeat what I believe an icon of 70s television humour would have said about them.

I am tempted to say again what I thought about the disgraceful pro-employer propaganda circulated in the name of the lead negotiator of another trade union, and also to remind readers of this blog of just who did stand to benefit from the proposals (which are still not an offer and in respect of which there is therefore no mandate to consult our members). But I shall resist temptation!

The only point I want to make in this blog post is to emphasise that UNISON branches and activists undoubtedly have the right to campaign for the rejection of this appalling deal (which will now undoubtedly be “sold” to our members) – and we need to organise, in every Region, a vigorous and effective campaign. Our Conference itself has confirmed the rights of branches and other UNISON bodies (and members) to campaign, including making their own recommendations.

I have been told more than once not to campaign against national recommendations. I have ignored such improper instructions (which have breached our rules) and have suffered no adverse consequences (other than perhaps a declining membership of my fan club).

I urge every UNISON member who believes that our negotiators have done a sterling job in producing proposals which are cheaper for the employers and less beneficial for our members to campaign for acceptance of those proposals. I equally urge all those who think that this is a lamentable set of proposals which any self-respecting trade unionist would have rejected already to express our views and campaign for rejection.

I will return in detail to the reasons why we should campaign for rejection of the pay proposal which our employers have advanced, and I will argue for that position within UNISON. Branches and activists who follow suit can expect to be told not to. They can expect to be told that they may be disciplined if they do. This is a bluff which should be called. The people who make those threats are not themselves local government workers, nor do they have any understanding of UNISON’s Rules (which have been agreed by lay members of our trade union).

Any such threat would breach UNISON Rule B.2.5, just as – I allege – the decision to suspend strike action and to consult upon such utterly inadequate proposals breaches Rule B.1.4. (Check the Rule Book!)


I will blog further about arrangements to coordinate campaigning for rejection of this disgraceful set of proposals to perpetuate poverty pay in local government.

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