Now -read the book!

Here is a link to my memoirs which, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can purchase online at
Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Better blogging...

I am slowly getting the hang of this now that I have been doing it for more than a year :)

I put a poll on the blog asking if people thought 2% was a good enough pay rise for public sector workers and I am glad to say that more than 80% of you thought it wasn't.

Today I have changed the poll to refer specifically to the pay offer in local government.

Having had sight of correspondence from a particularly diligent paid official of the Union earlier today I have to point out that this poll on the blog is a purely personal initiative and does not amount to any form of formal consultation.

No decision having been taken as to whether we will waste all our time by re-running the consultation exercise now that the employers' have finally made the offer we all knew that they were going to make in the first place, it would - apparently - be quite wrong for members to be consulted in advance of any such decision.

Anyway - vote in the poll!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bought off with 2.5%???

I see Gordon Brown is being accused by the Tories of trying to “buy off” public sector workers in order to avoid controversy in the Labour Party.

I don’t think a pay offer to local government workers which fails to meet the minimum objectives set by our Conference ought to be enough to buy us off!!

Good luck to striking Prison Officers, whose inadequate 2.5% pay award is being staged to save money. Also to UNISON health service members in Sheffield striking against pay cuts.

There is plenty of money for the fat cats. We should be demanding a fair share for public sector workers, resisting Government attempts to divide and rule – and defending our right to speak out in the Labour Party!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where now on local government pay?

I find I agree with my comrade and fellow NEC member, Emma Goodall, who thinks that the best response to a pay offer to local government workers which flies in the face of UNISON Local Government Conference policy is a strike ballot.

However there will be those – at the National Joint Council Committee and at the Service Group Executive – who will want to duck a fight because they don’t believe that our members will strike against the new offer. If that is their view then those colleagues should have had the courage to express their opinions at Conference. It is a shame that they did not.

I don’t believe for one moment that our members want to go on strike. No one takes strike action lightly and the sacrifice in terms of lost pay is often greater in the short term than the gains of an improved pay offer. The duty of trade union leadership is to develop strategies to advance our members interests and then to campaign to win the confidence and support of our members to implement those strategies. It is not the role of trade union leadership simply to reflect back to our members their own feelings at any point in time - nor to accept what the employers offer and then come back and sell it to the members.

What will happen if we approach our members now, having twice consulted over the employers’ prevarication, and now consult them on an offer in line with the employers original position (which was to tip local authorities the wink that they should budget for 2.5% on the pay bill, which most duly did)?

If we do so on the basis that “this is the best that can be achieved by negotiation and it will take sustained strike action to get any more” without making a recommendation in line with the agreed policy of the Local Government Service Group Conference then the message that that will give is that the leadership lack confidence in our ability to win a decent pay rise. This is precisely the outcome which would be sought by someone who wanted to undermine the policy agreed at Conference.

Now I agree that this offer is “the best that can be achieved by negotiation” and that “it will take sustained strike action to get any more” – therefore, in the light of the clear policy of the Service Group agreed at Conference, we should ballot for that sustained strike action – if our members don’t want to take that action they can vote “no” and accept the employers’ offer.

If we have a strike ballot the Union will be in a position to campaign in line with Conference policy for a “yes” vote in the ballot, whereas if we run yet another consultation there may be no clear lead – and members will (rightly) read such an abdication of responsibility as a tacit message to accept the offer.

One thing is very clear. Neither the NJC Committee, nor the SGE can change the policy of the Service Group, which is that “we believe that a settlement based on a 2.5% total "envelope" would not be acceptable to our members, however it was packaged. With inflation at an eight year high of 4.8% and further rises in interest rates predicted this would amount to a real and substantial further cut in living standards for Local Government Workers.We further believe that only a substantial campaign of industrial action, wherever possible coordinated with other unions, its likely to produce a successful outcome to this pay campaign.”

Therefore, whether we move, as we should, to a strike ballot or, as I believe we should not, to yet another consultation on this unacceptable offer, branches and individuals must be free to campaign, in either ballot, to persuade members to vote in line with the policy of the Service Group Conference. Which was to issue a clear recommendation for rejection of any offer based on an overall envelope of 2.5% or less.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Employers offers slightly smaller pay cut in real terms - rejoice?

We now have details of a pay offer in local government which is based upon a “pay envelope” of 2.5% (which most Councils budgeted for in the first place and which we totally rejected at UNISON Local Government Conference.)

Clearly UNISON officials knew that this was on the cards and I suppose this explains the lengthy timetable leading up to strike action, about which I expressed some concerns (rather later than other wiser comrades).

If the Retail Price Index was at 4.8% in April then a 2% pay rise was a 2.8% pay cut in real terms, so the pay offer to local government workers is really a 1.4% real pay cut for the lowest paid members on spine point 4 and a 2.225% real terms pay cut for everyone else.

I don’t think that this is acceptable.

Whilst I write this I have to express my disappointment – but not surprise – at the priority given to public sector pay in the report of the TUC General Council to this year’s Congress. (When it gets online it will be here.)

The public sector pay freeze merits one small paragraph deep in the middle of the report. Considerably less space than is given over to the 2012 Olympics!

Our members join unions for many reasons but one of the important ones is to get better pay. Since the public sector is the area of highest union density it is vital to the whole movement that we show that we can deliver decent pay rises for our members.

The TUC General Council know that they will pay lip service to support for the valiant struggle of our brothers and sisters in PCS but that the big unions want to sell below inflation pay increases to our members elsewhere in public services, so they will keep the whole question of public sector pay low key.

But if pay in the most unionised areas of the economy is going to rise more slowly than the less unionised areas then what are we for?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How high is public sector pay on the TUC agenda?

Having been accused of being “sad” because I was waiting for its publication I can now confess to being happy that the Final Agenda for the TUC is online here and here.

Mind you, I would be a lot happier if the other large public service unions were supporting strong motions on the public sector pay freeze alongside PCS and the NUT, surely we don’t still have illusions…

Soft on pay?

Although regarded in some quarters as a dangerous leftie, I think that those comrades who view me as a bit soft are probably closer to the mark.

Following my earlier post on the national pay dispute, more than one respected friend has queried my stance in simply welcoming the decision of UNISON’s NJC Committee to press ahead with a strike ballot without questioning the enormously lengthy timetable for action.

The employers haven’t shifted their position (as of today’s date) since we lodged our claim and – even if they do offer a “pay envelope” worth 2.5% tomorrow – the most that there are now likely to do is to make an offer which they were hinting at in the spring.

Evidence from elsewhere in the Union is that there are those who are eager to return from the negotiating table bearing a few crumbs only to claim that these are in fact the latest thing in very small cakes for slimmers and we should be grateful for them… (or at least that we ought to try them before deciding we don’t like them). Some ungrateful souls are not taking this advice!

How are we to avoid a similar outcome for local government workers, whose pay failed to keep pace with price inflation from 2004 to April this year and is now set to fall further in real terms?

Certainly we need to keep up the campaigning. So congratulations go to Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary, John Burgess, for getting a petition up on the number 10 website on the question of public sector pay – the Barnet Branch blog is one of the best sources of campaigning material on the pay claim in local government. As John says this may not be as strongly worded as he would wish but we can encourage members to sign it. For those on Facebook there is also a group to join there.

It’s tough campaigning over the summer – but if we don’t get a move on then those who never wanted a fight on pay in the first place will soon be telling us that it is much too close to Christmas to expect members to strike…

We need clear information about what is said at tomorrow’s meeting of the NJC Executive to be circulated as widely and as swiftly as possible so that activists can consider this and lobby members of the NJC Committee ahead of the meeting on 4 September. I hope we can expect to see such information on the UNISON website by Monday morning.

Update on Thursday evening - this post has prompted a response which makes a fair bit of sense.

Where's the Agenda?

According to the TUC website the Final Agenda for Congress will be published by 22 August.

It’s late.

Mind you, the TUC are now 81 years late to really protect the interests of the Miners Federation of Great Britain so it’s not the first time…

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cuts cost lives

Cuts cost lives – whether in the Fire Service or the Health Service. (And most “reorganisations” of public services which purport to be about improving services are really about making cuts – though not always in the pay of those at the very top…!)

The answer to improving public services is to put in the resources and manage the services well.

We don’t need continually “efficiencies” (a code word for cuts and job losses) nor do we need the involvement of private companies or so-called Third Sector organisations which try to drive down pay and conditions (and the quality of services!)

I’d like to say that it is time our trade union movement stood up against the Government that is driving through these attacks on our public services. But that would be wrong. It is long past that time.

At the TUC in three weeks time the trade union leaders could tell us which side we should be on in the confrontation between the Government and our members – deliberately initiated by the Government.

Or perhaps that won't happen...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Local Government Pay - what next?

Full marks to UNISON’s NJC Committee who today decided to continue preparations for a strike ballot of our local government members in opposition to the scandalous 2% pay offer (equivalent to a pay cut in “real terms” of more than 2% as the Retail Price Index stands above 4%). Whether we will see a serious fight for a decent pay rise or an attempt to railroad a dodgy compromise remains, of course, an open question.

[Note for those who are not anoraks - The NJC is the National Joint Council (the negotiating body for pay and conditions in English and Welsh local government) and the UNISON NJC Committee consists of UNISON’s members of that body (the majority of the trade union side).]

The NJC Committee decided to press ahead with preparations for the strike ballot in spite of indications that the employers’ side may be preparing to make an improved offer at Friday’s meeting of the NJC Executive – the Committee will meet again on 4 September to consider what to do in response to any improved offer.

The NJC was right on two counts. First, if there is any chance of a significantly improved offer then before that offer has been made is not the time to let up on pressure on the employers! Secondly, activists need to be confident that the leadership are serious about preparing to fight against this attack upon our members’ standard of living if we are to stand a chance of mobilising our members to take action.

The questions to which we need to turn our minds are what should be done if there is an improved offer – and what strike action should we be preparing for if a satisfactory improvement is not offered. It seems logical that there must be some improvement to be offered (or why meet? The trade union side cancelled the last meeting – rightly – when they were told nothing more was to be offered). But how much? And what then?

Obviously if a trivial improvement is offered (say £38 each for most members) then I hope the Committee will simply press ahead. If a more significant increase is made in the offer then the Committee will need to decide whether to repeat the consultation exercise that produced an 81% rejection of the 2% offer. I can’t see that this would be worth doing for any offer worth less than 3% on the pay bill, but that may not be the view of everyone.

There are those who say that our members will strike against an offer of 2% but would be less enthusiastic to strike against an offer of 2.5% (the amount many local authorities budgeted for). Since the employers hinted at making an offer worth 2.5% on the pay bill there is a risk that some on the NJC Committee and the Service Group Executive would wish to recommend acceptance of such an offer – in blatant contravention of Conference policy. Those who believe that our members will accept 2.5% were noticeable by their absence – and their silence – at Conference in June.

There is also always the risk that an elected lay Committee will refuse to make a recommendation to members in a further consultative ballot – an abdication of responsibility which could only possibly be made worse by a subsequent attempt to stifle debate. (This is of course what has happened in the Health Service Group, where I hope that activists will continue to encourage members to reflect upon their own interests when deciding whether or not to accept a very poor offer).

If you are a local government worker reading this you are not just a spectator. Join UNISON and you can have a say;

Local government members who want a pay rise closer to our claim (for 5% or £1,000) than to the employers’ lousy 2% offer need to be lobbying their elected members on the SGE and NJC Committees to express their views. The elected members of the SGE are listed online here.

If we don’t prevent a below inflation pay deal in the first year of the Brown premiership then things can only get worse from here on in – the employers are already planning ahead (as we were warned in June by the SGE) and we need to show strength and determination to defend national pay bargaining and our conditions of service.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Strike action on the way

Let’s hope the UNISON National Joint Council Committee on Monday accepts the recommendation to commence a strike ballot!

As the Head of Local Government puts it on the website;

"If we are to move the employers and the government to make a better offer, we need to mount a massive campaign to win a 'yes' vote in an industrial action ballot," "And then we must make sure that effective sustained action takes place in every council and workplace."

We also need unity with other public service workers who are in dispute over pay, or who will be, or who might be!

Incidentally, it is excellent news that health service members of UNISON in Manchester have voted to strike in support of victimised activist Karen Reissman and also that local government members in Edinburgh are taking strike action against cuts and job losses.

A vigorous campaigning approach is what we need to help our Union to grow – as much as we all enjoy adverts with animals on

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Say no to pay cuts

It seems as if some of our national officials with a tenuous grasp upon concepts like debate and democracy (not to mention UNISON’s Rules!) really do want to try to stop UNISON activists campaigning for our members to reject a poor pay offer in the health service.

As a local government member I can only view this as tantamount to sabotage of our hopes for a unified fight for decent pay increases in the public sector – as an NEC member I view this as an alarming attack upon UNISON democracy (in aid of which the “Democracy in UNISON” guidelines are invariably quoted!)

I am glad that activists are continuing to campaign in spite of red-baiting rubbish and poorly argued nonsense from those who clearly wish they could be recommending a pay rise below the level of the Retail Price Index (RPI) now at 4.8% and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) now at 3.1%, which would represent a pay cut in real terms and would have a significant impact on the standard of living for staff who include some of the lowest paid in the NHS. Coupled with the significant increases in energy costs, council tax and travel costs, health workers would see no benefit from such a low pay increase.

If you recognise those words it is because they are drawn from the agreed policy of our Health Service Group Conference. Although inflation has fallen the pay offers to our members in both health and local government still fall short of keeping our standard of living from declining. Let’s hope our members reject these pay cuts!

Defending activists

It is good to see strong support for victimised Manchester health worker, Karen Reissman on the UNISON website today. We need to mobilise the same strong support for Michael Gavan, Chair of UNISON’s Newham local government branch, about whose suspension I have blogged before.

I hope to be able to support our members in Newham tomorrow at a protest at East Ham Town Hall. As the Government’s reactionary plans to devastate our public services and hold down the pay of public sector workers develop we will see more and more instances of employers, pursuing these policies, seeking to eliminate the opposition provided by effective trade union activists.

We need to defend our activists and remember which side we are on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Health service pay - should we have a discussion or not?

The UNISON Head of Health has just sent a circular to our health branches suggesting that they – and individual members of regional and national Committees – ought not to express opinions about the current consultative ballot on the marginally improved pay offer to NHS workers!

The circular reads as follows;

“The UNISON Health Group Executive ballot of individual members on the Pay Offer is due to begin on the 20 August. The position taken by the Health Group Executive is to consult members without a recommendation as “the best offer that can be secured through negotiation”. This position has been set to branches in the branch communication HC-92-07.

The Health Group Executive agreed specifically not to recommend either acceptance or rejection of the offer. It is therefore extremely important that branches and elected members of regional or national committees should not undermine that agreed policy. To do so would be a breach of the “Democracy in UNISON” guidelines.

This circular emphasises that union bodies at national, regional and branch level must observe and respect the union’s policy position which was democratically agreed by the Health Group Executive on 25 July 07. In addition it is important that Branches are aware of their obligation to ensure that they promote and implement agreed policy.”

I have just responded to this strange circular as follows;

“I have seen the circular to health branches purporting to instruct branches and office holders that it would be a breach of the “Democracy in UNISON” guidelines for branches (or individual members of Regional or National Committees) to make recommendations to members in the current consultative ballot of health service members over the pay offer.

I did at first think that this was a spoof circular issued by some mischievous comrade wishing to poke fun at the alleged “control freak” tendencies of some at Mabledon Place. I now realise however that this may be an authentic circular to branches.

I realise that August is traditionally the “silly season” but regret that we may have excelled ourselves here.

Under Rule (B.2.5) members (including members of Committees) have a clear right to campaign to initiate and develop policy. Branches have in the past relied upon this right to make recommendations at variance with national recommendations and this has not been challenged.

At the last NEC the questions was raised as to whether or not branches ought to make recommendations at variance with a clear national recommendation in the LGPS ballot. The outcome of this issue having been raised was that the General Secretary suggested that the question be referred to the Development and Organisation Committee. That question has therefore yet to be resolved.

In the case of the ballot of members on pay in health the SGE decided not to make a recommendation. In these circumstances to suggest that branches and individuals may not make recommendations is absurd and has no basis in UNISON Rules. Branches may make policy in accordance with their rules and Rule G.3.3.2. That policy can include policy to change UNISON policy (or how would Conference motions proposing a change in policy ever come about?)

There may be branches (or individual national Committee members) who feel that the priority is to secure the re-election of Gordon Brown, or who feel that the Government will not concede even to strike action (because they have told us as much). These branches and individuals have every right, under UNISON rules to campaign for acceptance of a real-terms pay cut for the majority of our NHS membership as the best practicable outcome (in their view).

Equally there are branches and individuals who will take the view that our members do not join our Union in order to be encouraged to accept a decline in their standard of living. These branches and individuals have every right under our Rules to campaign for rejection of the pay offer.

I would be grateful to know when the NEC interpreted our Rules to support the bizarre and unreasonable approach of the circular to health branches. I don’t know why we as a Union should be seeking to stifle debate in a way which gives the impression that we are more interested in supporting the Government than our own members.

I look forward to hearing from you.”

I hope that members and branches will not be discouraged from expressing and debating opinions! If the SGE decided not to make a recommendation then that cannot have been a unanimous decision to refuse to provide leadership – it must have reflected uncertainty (which is no bad thing in uncertain circumstances). If the leadership is uncertain then stifling debate amongst the rank and file is hardly sensible – how will we decide upon the correct course of action if we do so?

Of course if one had the objective of securing the acquiescence of the membership if a poor pay offer then preventing the airing of contrary opinions would be a sound tactic. Happily no one in our Union has that objective and therefore no doubt this unfortunate circular will shortly be withdrawn.

In the mean time, as an elected member of our NEC, I want to be clear that, with all due respect to the SGE, if I were a health worker I would vote to reject the offer (although I think I have voted to reject every pay offer I have ever been made so I suppose that is not too shocking…)

Really though, why should we be accepting any pay rises below the rate of inflation? Are we too rich? Too well paid????

Victimisation of a UNISON official

I am sad to learn that Newham Council have suspended UNISON Branch Chair, Michael Gavan.

Michael is a widely respected UNISON activist and the Newham Branch deserve our full support in responding to this attack.

I have today sent the following message to Robin Wales and Chris Wood at Newham Council;

“I am writing to express my disappointment at the decision of the London Borough of Newham to suspend the highly respected Chair of the local UNISON Branch, Michael Gavan.

I hope that you will swiftly reverse this foolish suspension which reflects very badly upon the London Borough of Newham.

This is not the conduct of a progressive twenty-first century local authority and I very much hope that you will seek to restore a constructive relationship with the Newham branch of UNISON.”

I strongly urge all trade unionists to support our brothers and sisters in Newham – copying in the Newham Branch to any correspondence.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back to work

Back to work today – so no more of this or this. Back instead to this and this.

I’m sorry to see the news that thousands more cases are being taken against trade unions by no win no fee solicitors on behalf of members claiming that the unions have not fought hard enough to secure equal pay.

If members don’t think our unions are fighting hard enough (on any issue) the answer is to stand for election and try to change things, not to litigate.

Of course our union leaderships need to be receptive to criticism and not respond in a hostile and defensive way to critics if democracy is going to function to advance and improve our unions…

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pay - TUC to the rescue???

No regular blogging just now as I have better things to do.

What are we to make of the suspension of strike action in the postal service?

All strikes end in negotiation and (usually) compromise – so it is to be hoped that the CWU can get a good deal. It was alwasy going to be difficult to coordinate all the various public sector pay struggles – even within one Union between health and local government… We still need to secure the maximum coordination if we are to break the 2% pay norm.

I notice though that the talks between the CWU and the Royal Mail are being hosted by the TUC. Now I thought we had a neutral and independent body to host these sort of talks… (and ok, I know ACAS is a government body and that the state in a capitalist society is not really neutral between workers and employers…)

What concerns me is that instead of being a coordinating body to organise and grow a fighting trade union movement, the TUC seems content to take on the role of broker of deals between public service unions and their employers (behind whom stands the Labour Government). Is this what we want from a trade union centre?

I worry that when Congress comes to Brighton in four weeks time, while we will have a good firm composite motion on public sector pay based upon submissions from PCS and the NUT which you can find in the Preliminary Agenda, we will also have a statement from the General Council. I am not sure that the General Council of the TUC will take a firm line on public sector pay.

Or am I just an old cynic who should get out more…?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Preparations for the TUC continue whilst the rest of us sun ourselves

It is reassuring to know that whilst some of us are enjoying ourselves, the routines of the labour and trade union movement are continuing to play themselves out.

Today I got the annual letter inviting me to express an interest in speaking at September’s Trades Union Congress. It may be that the UNISON Presidential Team will once more wish to spare me the stress and heartache of having to address Congress on behalf of our Union, but I shall volunteer! If any readers have any suggestions as to what I should volunteer to speak on then let me know!

This reminds me that, as I missed last week’s TUC Delegation meeting I have not reported on it here – but a fellow NEC member, James Anthony, has a report on his blog. (Well worth a look, just to see that there is a blogger on the UNISON NEC who happily find himself in agreement with the majority – a circumstance likely to give rise to great optimism).

Support Union activists at home and abroad!

One of the most important tasks for trade unionists is to defend our brothers and sisters when they are victimised. As I am not in London I won’t be at the protest outside the Iranian embassy tomorrowUNISON is supporting this protest against the jailing of union leaders.

We don’t face the same hazards in this country!

However it is still important that our Union responds vigorously when our activists are attacked – as is the case with the suspension of Manchester health activist Karen Reissman. Karen has been suspended for speaking out and because she is an effective UNISON lay activist. The result of a strike ballot is expected soon.

Our activists are the heart and soul of our Union – and when employers attack them we have to be vigorous in our response.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sun, sea and strike ballots

Today’s update to the UNISON website is encouraging news about the local government strike ballot.

Following overwhelming rejection of a 2% pay offer in a consultative ballot UNISON's pay and single status group is now recommending the union proceeds to an industrial action ballot. In tandem with UNISON, the GMB and TGWU-Unite are also preparing to ballot their members on industrial action.

Something to look forward to when I get back to work, but for now, no more blogging…

Friday, August 03, 2007

No to 2% in local government - and in health???

So there is a new pay offer in the NHS, and it is barely more than fourpence ha’penny extra bus fare for the negotiators

I agree with the individual member of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE) who thinks this is not worth accepting. I understand that the SGE won’t be making a recommendation in the membership ballot, which (you might think) is not the very best way to build the confidence of our members to take the industrial action necessary to break the 2% pay norm.

If the negotiators say “it therefore follows that if members wish to reject the offer, they must also be prepared to support industrial action in the event of a subsequent industrial action ballot” then that is not exactly calculated to encourage members to express such support.

Another way of putting things would be to say that “inflation is running at 4.3% and earnings across the economy are rising by 3.6% but the employers have offered you a 2% pay rise. This is in line with the government's 2% public sector pay policy. It's a pay cut, not a pay rise! And you deserve better.”

In local government the Union made a clear recommendation that members reject 2% and prepare for strike action – and the members rejected 2% on the basis of being prepared to take strike action.

In preparation for the consultation on an offer worth 2% in local government members were asked to bear in mind the following;

the cost of living is currently increasing by 4.5%
increases in the cost of housing, fuel and energy, council tax and childcare are even higher
pay across the economy is rising by 3.6%
UNISON is co-ordinating our pay campaign with our health and other service groups and with other public sector unions.

Before asking our members in health their opinion on an offer worth 2% UNISON says simply that “the parties to the Staff Council Executive
believe that this formal offer represents the best that can be achieved through negotiation.”

I hope that rank and file members in health will have more confidence in their strength than is shown by this weak-kneed approach endorsed by the SGE. I am sure a rank and file campaign to vote to reject 2% will gather strength in the next few days and will blog about this as soon as I hear more.

In the mean time members in local government need to prepare for a strike ballot. On 6 August the Pay & Single Status Project Group will meet to discuss in detail the results of the pay consultation and consider the next steps in our campaign, a further update will be issued officially next week.

Branches must continue to build awareness and support with all members for the pay campaign and recruit non members and to help us fight this pay cut.

The rejection of 2% by our members has provided a basis to go back to the employers and Government and ask for more. I doubt we will see more for our local government members without strike action, however at least we have the ability to continue arguing having rejected 2%. Our members in health have to vote to reject 2% in order to get into that position by 13 September – until then the Government can hope that we will swallow the first year of this new policy of pay cuts.

Unfortunately the timetable for the ballot of members in health runs right through the dates for this year’s TUC Congress, at which it appears that any sound composite on public service pay based upon submissions from PCS and the NUT will now be accompanied by a General Council statement. UNISON's position will obviously be complicated by not knowing the result of the consultation in health. What an unfortunate coincidence indeed.

Will the General Council clearly reject the 2% pay norm and back all those taking action against it, or will it equivocate in anticipation of a General election? Experience within UNISON suggests that both approaches have support within the trade union movement…