Friday, November 14, 2014
Local Government trade unions complete pay capitulation - be angry but be organised
Sadly, in spite of vigorous opposition in many quarters (including clear majorities in opposition in London and the North West) the decision has been taken nationally to accept the disgraceful local government pay proposals.
This means that we have decided to squander the effort that went into the 10 July strike and collude in a continuing decline in the living standards of the large majority of all our members in local government, UNISON’s largest service group.
It is right to take a little time to be angry at the way in which the continuous failure of our national leadership to be in any meaningful way either “national” or a “leadership” has led us into this predicament – but only a little time.
From Monday we have to focus on how we build and change our trade union to represent the interests of local government workers. The sensible, and widely supported, initiative of the Manchester branch to call for a Special Service Group Conference gives us an opportunity which we must not now waste.
In order to make best use of this opportunity we must seek to understand the path that led us to this terrible outcome, including not only the lack of meaningful national leadership, but also the retreat and decline of workplace organisation and the unevenness of our organisation (and combativeness) within and between our Regions and our branches.
If we are to retain national pay bargaining (and I believe we should try) then we must redesign pay consultation procedures to prevent the deliberate sabotage of our members’ sacrifice and action which took place in this case.
Having seen that we cannot rely in any way upon our a UNISON Centre more interested in gazing at its own collective navel from the vantage point of the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road, we also need to bring branches together before National Delegate Conference in order to redirect our trade union’s resources to the levels of the union where some good may be done.
This goes way beyond a restructuring or unification of those who have traditionally see ourselves as “the left”. We are at the beginning of a process which will determine whether UNISON has a meaningful and relevant future, and all those who want a trade union which knows how to fight for our members – and therefore want that future – need to draw together in our common interest and in the interests of UNISON members.