Tuesday, November 18, 2014

London debates the pay fiasco

‎I have spent a merry morning at a meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Local Government Committee where, as you might imagine there was some discussion of the recent pay dispute.

Those contributing to the debate were generally of the view that we should support the proposed Special Conference. 10 London boroughs said that they had already submitted their requisitions and two others indicated an intention to do so.

There was much anger at the conduct of the dispute by the national leadership - and considerable support for our sitting representatives on the National Joint Council Committee who were overwhelmingly re-elected in the face of a less-than-half-hearted challenge.

However, whilst the conduct of the national leadership of our trade union (and of the other unions which presently misrepresent local government workers) has indeed been disgraceful, there is a wider and deeper problem to be addressed.

287 UNISON branches submitted returns in the consultation process. In all but 50 of these the majority voted to accept a pay "offer" worse than that against which we had taken strike action.

19 of the 50 were in the North West and another 15 in London (though even in those two Regions which recorded a "popular vote" to reject there were more branches recording majority acceptance than rejection).

For those, like your blogger, for whom glasses are half full, it is clear that in most branches where there was a recommendation to reject members took confidence from that recommendation to support further strike action. The "rejectionist" branches also recorded (on average) higher turnouts from their members. 

However, the glass is also half empty, since in the very large majority of our branches, whether by democratic decision or through inertia, branch level elected leaders did not take a different stance from the national leadership.

It may well be that a national leadership which sows demoralisation and despondency will reap apathy and cynicism, but the reality of UNISON in local government is that this is the harvest we have. 

In our preparations for the Special Conference ‎those of us who are angry must reflect upon the reality that the majority of branches who will send delegates to the Conference will do so knowing that the majority of their members (who voted) accepted this defeat.

We are in a position of weakness from which the leadership of our trade union wilfully averts it's gaze - but which we must analyse if we are to save our union from that leadership.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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