Wednesday, November 19, 2014
So how do we raise pay in local government? - 1 the living wage?
The fourth and final topic which UNISON branches seeking to requisition a Special Local Government Conference is probably the most important - and it is as relevant to our members in Scotland as it is to those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (who have been the victims of the catastrophic misleadership of the NJC pay "dispute").
What are the best means to secure a decent pay increase for union members in local government?
This is a serious question which requires more thought than can be given in a single blog post, so for now I'll consider just the case of those whose job evaluated grades would deliver an hourly rate of less than £7.85 (outside London) or £9.15 (in London).
These workers would - under the Green Book terms and conditions (and on the basis of the pay deal to which we have just signed up) receive less than the "living wage" which is deemed (by that subset of the great and the good who deem such things) to be the minimum one needs to live a decent life.
We campaign for the living wage but - depending upon how this is paid - when we win this campaign we can take the earnings of our lower paid members out of collective bargaining.
Discussing this yesterday with some fellow London Branch Secretaries we identified that, whereas some boroughs have implemented the London Living Wage by lifting all workers to at least the lowest spine point above the level of the living wage (so that they would benefit from any future negotiated pay increases) others treat the living wage as a supplement above the job evaluated grade (so that a negotiated pay increase simply reduces that supplement without increasing an employee's earnings).
Given the pusillanimous way in which our trade union (and the others) now approaches national collective bargaining - and the consequent increase in the relevance of the "living wage" to an increasing proportion of our membership - we need, as part of our preparation to debate the key issues at our Special Conference, to press for an approach to the implementation of the living wage which leaves the earnings of those workers on the living wage open to increase by collective bargaining.
Those of us whose employers have treated the living wage as a free-standing "add-on" to the evaluated "rate for the job" need to be assisted to change this approach, or an increasing proportion of our members will find that their pay is set not by the cut and thrust of industrial relations but by the grace and favour of those who (not living upon it themselves) determine the "living wage."
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