Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The need for honesty at the Special Local Government Conference
The first of four topics to be debated at the hoped-for Special Local Government Conference, according to the requisition submitted by branches, is the question of the 2014-2016 NJC pay proposals, now a formal offer which was accepted as soon as it was made.
It is important that we are honest with ourselves and our members about just what it is which we have accepted in order to analyse the outright defeat which we have suffered at the hands of the Government and employers.
With the exception of those affected by the bottom loading intended to keep the bottom of our pay spine above the national minimum wage (who are in any case "enjoying" unacceptably low living standards already), we will most of us wake to a 2.2% increase on New Year's Day.
On the face of it that figure looks not far from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) - but this is a two year deal, and to keep up with a CPI projected to increase by 2% a year in 2014 and 2015 would require an increase not of 2.2% but of more than 4%.
Of course the position of the trade unions has long been that the Retail Price Index (RPI) is a better guide to the changing cost of living (not least because it includes housing costs). With the RPI projected to increase by 3% a year in 2014 and 2015, we would have needed a 6.1% pay increase just to avoid our real wages in April 2016 being lower than they were in April 2014.
The first thing we have to recognise about the pay agreement struck last Friday by the two sides of the National Joint Council - and the reason why we must be honest in our assessment of this grave defeat - is that it will continue the downward spiral in the living standards of the local government workforce.
Of course, many of us would accept a settlement which offered a bit less higher up the pay spine if the money was being used to lift the lowest paid to the dignity of a living wage (as, of course, many branches - acting locally - have already achieved). This, however, is not the case in respect of the two year pay deal accepted last Friday.
Those workers employed by authorities which have not already signed up to the living wage, and who are on points 10 and below of the national pay spine, know that (absent a political decision by their employer quite separate from collective bargaining) they will not reach the rate of the living wage which has been set in the autumn of 2014 this side of the spring of 2016 at the earliest.
The two year pay deal offers us all declining living standards without making any significant headway towards tackling low pay.
The first thing we must do, if we are to move forward, is to face honestly the scale of the complete and utter defeat into which we have been led.
Without that honesty we shall get nowhere.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.