Tuesday, March 22, 2016

GMB - the weakest link on local government pay?


This is a link to the latest pay bulletin from UNISON\'s local government section.‎ It reports quite rightly that members of both UNISON and UNITE have rejected the employers\' two year pay offer of 1% a year. The unions are seeking further discussions, including the possibility of agreeing a deal for a single year.

The UNISON bulletin also reports, factually and without adverse comment, that GMB members voted by a margin of nine to one to accept the offer. 

Unfortunately our sister union has shown no such restraint and, in a bulletin signed by a Mr Bowden, they accuse UNISON and UNITE of \'breaking ranks\' and are critical of the trade union side for not immediately accepting the deal, which they talk up to the point almost of self-parody.

It is true that the very lowest paid are being offered more than 1% a year - but it is also true that this is necessary to keep up with the increases in the (rebranded) minimum wage being introduced by the Tory Government. Therefore those who are being offered a real terms increase are being offered it not because of the generosity of our employers, still less because of the skill of our negotiators but simply because of the political calculation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

And for the vast majority of the local government workforce the offer falls short of the 1.3% increase in the Retail Price Index on the last published figures. In other words, the GMB want us to take a further pay cut to add to the 20% decline in the living standards of local government workers so far this decade.

Of course the GMB officials can claim a democratic mandate for this conduct - but then an individual member ballot with no clear leadership offering a strategy to achieve better can be virtually guaranteed to produce such an outcome (even in unions where rank and file organisation is not a cardinal sin).

The challenge which confronts UNISON is how to proceed in the absence of the trade union unity which we rightly seek. Do we consider that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and try to extricate ourselves from this year\'s pay dispute, perhaps on the basis of a single year deal (keeping our powder dry for that mythical day when we remember how to use it?)

This sort of approach was certainly hinted at in the postponement, last Friday, of a meeting of our Industrial Action Committee. 

I think that this would be a grave error.

Whereas the collapse of the UCU pay campaign at their Further Education Committee snookered UNISON in a sector in which we are not the majority union, that is not the case on the National Joint Council for Local Government Services.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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