Sunday, June 14, 2015

Local Government Pay - shall we now have "unity" after the Special Local Government Conference?

As diligent readers of this blog will recollect, UNISON members in Local Government held a Special Service Group Conference in March at which delegates decided that the Union should submit a pay claim for an increase from 1 April 2015.
Such a claim was duly submitted and can be read online here.
How seriously did our officials take the decision of our Special Conference? Well, the letter submitting the pay claim ran to an impressive word count in excess of 100.
However, if you compare that to the previous NJC pay claim you’ll see that ran to over 30 pages. A serious document, setting out evidence and argument in support of a pay claim shows when we are serious. A brief letter setting out a demand for more money with only the most perfunctory justification shows when we are not.
In other words, the official implementation of the Special Conference decision was deliberately contemptuous of that decision.
What happened next? This is what the official briefing tells us;
“The additional re-opened UNISON pay claim for NJC workers for 2015/16 was submitted to the employers on 22 April 2015. It demanded that the full-time equivalent Living Wage should be the new minimum, and an equivalent flat rate increase for all scale points. The Employers responded stating that they would not consider this new pay claim. The NJC Committee considered this at their meeting on 12 May, along with the results of the consultation of members on the content 2016/17 pay claim. The NJC Committee agreed to refuse to accept the Employers’ response to our 2015/16 claim and to merge the 2015/16 campaign into the 2016/17 pay campaign.”
What on earth does it mean to say that we “refuse to accept the Employers’ response to our 2015/16 claim” if we do nothing to indicate this refusal other than campaign for the next year’s pay rise? That is a bit like accepting that you won’t be served breakfast and deciding to merge your desire for breakfast into your ongoing campaign for lunch.
The Salford City branch deserve congratulation for submitting an Emergency Motion drawing the necessary conclusion from the employers’ immediate rejection of our pay claim for 2015, which is that we should threaten a campaign of industrial action. Delegates might or might not think that this is the right course of action (bearing in mind the mixed picture across different Regions perhaps). However, one would hope that delegates would have the opportunity to participate in that debate.
But no.
The Standing Orders Committee (SOC) has ruled the Salford Emergency Motion out of order. There is some confusion as to the reason for this. Salford were told that they were in breach of Rule O, but delegates at the London Regional briefing were briefed that the reason the motion was out of order was because it could put the union in legal jeopardy. Mind you, delegates were briefed at more than one Regional meeting that Salford had been “spoken to” about this (with the implication that they had accepted the decision) – which isn’t what the Salford branch told delegates at the fringe meeting which they themselves had organised on Saturday evening.
These manoeuvres are part of a desire from the top that this Conference should be an occasion for unity after the arguments of the Special Conference.
Unity is a good thing.
But representing the interests of our members is what we are for.
Unity is available on the basis that we fight for the interests of our members.
It is not available on the basis that we do not.
It is not available on the basis that officials treat the decisions of our Service Group Conference with contempt.

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