Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trade unions can still improve conditions for working people - the case of shared parental leave

I blog enough about how bad things are working in the public sector (and local government in particular) and also have enough to say criticising what I perceive as the shortcomings of my own trade union.
I think it is worth saying that not everything is bad, and that effective trade union organisation can still be the foundation for the negotiation of improvements to the conditions of service of our members.
In a few weeks shared parental leave will come into force. This progressive new statutory provision enables the sharing of maternity (or adoption) leave and pay between two partners – but the statutory provision only provides for a fairly minimal rate of pay.
Given that this statutory pay rate is well below the (better) contractual rates of maternity pay available to many UNISON members, if employers do not improve upon the statutory minimum rate of pay for shared parental leave take-up will be minimal.
This would rather defeat the purpose of bringing this new leave provision into force.
That may be why even this Government announced their intention to pay shared parental leave at the same rate as equivalent maternity leave. UNISON branches need to demand at least the same from all our employers. We must not allow the climate of austerity and the constant cutbacks and redundancies to inhibit us from fighting for better conditions, particularly where these promote equality.
Today I signed, on behalf of the joint trade unions for my employer, an agreement which gives equivalent rates of pay for shared parental leave to the rates of maternity pay (under a local agreement which is as good as the best in local government).
It is not all bad.

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