Council workers receive the lowest pay in the public sector, and have faced a 18% decline in pay over the last 8 years with below inflation pay rises and 3 years with no increase at all.
Workers have faced some of the worst cuts in services with some councils having seen cuts as great as 30% over the lifetime of this government, while the cost of services are increasing due to increase in cost of elderly care and services to support the vulnerable being in greater demand.
Even more reason why council workers should call on our unions Unison and GMB to take a stand against another year of pay cuts planned by the Employers.
The Local Government Association (which represent the joint Council employers) have so far failed to even make an offer in response to the unions joint claim for a flat rate increase of at least £1.20 per hour. So the unions have finally announced a dispute, and this has brought the LGA back to the negotiating table, agreeing to meet unions on 20 March (instead of 1 May as planned). Uptil now the arrogance of the employers was to not even offer the 1% that Osbourne has allowed them to pay – yes these Chief Execs on £200K and council leaders on generous expenses, think it fair to refuse to even consider the needs of these low paid, mainly women workers, many of whom fearful they can meet the rent, cover the food on the table, let alone by clothes for their children. So calling a dispute has a least woken them up, but…
…as with last year this feels like too little, too late.
Last year’s members reluctantly accepted the miserable1% but even this was paid in September (5 months later than the 1 Aprildate for our annual pay award) Only North West, London and Scotland regions voted for strike action.
By allowing the employers year after year to make an offer at the eleventh hour, or as with last year to propose action after the pay rise was actually due, risks members accepting whatever offered because they have no choice.
A low paid worker on not much more than minimum wage needs the pay rise on 1stApril and if the employer offers a pittance to many that money in your hand now is the difference between buying your children shoes this term or next.
Unions need to realise that action needs to be taken months before the pay offer date., not talking up action in the final month.
So how do we get out of this impasse?
Firstly the unions should start a serious campaign now for targeted industrial action with proper strike pay from day one. If the employers are to be pushed into making an offer better than 1% pay limit of the Chancellor then they need to know the plan is more creative than one day of action, and that action could actually hit running of council services, like street cleaning, IT workers or parking inspectors. A week strike action where no one was fined for parking running out would be hugely popular with the public and hit the council’s finances.
Secondly both workers themselves and the employers need to know we mean business – this would need a war chest for the unions nationally and the branches. Campaigns over pay and union recognition from unions like IWGB have used strike pay for all workers from day one, a strike fund both shows workers they can take action without extreme hardship, and shows the employers you can take further action.
Finally whatever happens this year next year’s claim and strategy need to be planned to deliver action well before the pay rise is due, so a dispute needs to be in place in the Autumn and action planned in the Winter, again using creative targeted action as well as all out action, and with a strike fund from the start.
Below is the motion, I attempted to get submitted to National Delegate Conference, but unfortunately we didnt get the opportunity to discuss motions at branch meeting, so I hope to include some of this, and what is in the post in an amendment for conference
Local Government Pay Campaign
Conference notes that Local Government pay is the lowest in the public sector after a period of a 8 years of below inflation pay increases and 3 years of pay freeze between 2010 – 2012.. UNISON and the joint trade unions in the pay claim have publicised that our members have faced an 18% drop in earnings since the Government’s austerity measures were introduced while over the same period, the cost of living has increased; and all members see the cost of utility bills and basic essentials soaring.
2014 must be the year that UNISON’s pay campaign strikes a chord with our members who are struggling to make ends meet and are resorting to food banks and pay day lenders in order to survive.
UNISON must lead the way in encouraging members to take the pay campaign seriously against a back drop of fears over job cuts and attacks to terms and conditions engendered by the Coalition Government’s swingeing cuts to Council funding.
Conference condemns the Local Government Employers for:
· allowing Local Government Pay to become poverty pay for thousands of workers an
· falling to make a timely pay offer and undermining our ability as unions to representative our many agreed pay claim
Conference congratulates the joint union secretaries for lodging a formal dispute over the failure to make an offer in February.
Conference calls on the SGE to:
· Move to a ballot of all members if the claim is not met by the employers, if possible with the others unions, but alone if necessary
· To support and campaign for a Yes vote in the ballot for industrial action
· Develop case studies and share experiences of branches and regions who won yes votes for strike action in 2013
· To encourage branches and regions to propose strategies for targeted and selected action as well as all out action which will make up the national strategy for action.
· Support and encourage Regions to coordinate regular activity across Branches in support of the 2014 pay campaign to ensure regular events take place to ensure member interest is maintained.
· Support and encourage Branches to use the local press to get the pay campaign message across to the general public.
· Continue to produce campaign material that Branches can use with their members and the public.
· Encourage Branches to campaign jointly with the GMB and UNITE unions across the workplace