Delegates at union’s annual conference get tough on low pay

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Public (PSI), Unison,

UNISON logo iUNISON members working in local government are to build towards strike action over low pay.

Delegates at the union’s local government conference in Glasgow yesterday voted to “back up lobbying with a strategic programme of escalating strike action”.

Val Rogacs, of the union’s National Joint Council Committee, said: “If ever we needed to build a pay strategy and campaign to inspire members it’s now. We need a clear vision for local government that will underpin our campaigning.

“Our members face poverty pay. Their pay is falling year–on-year in real terms. At work they are having to cope with losing half a million of our colleagues through redundancies and job losses. And there will be several billion pounds of funding cuts in local government in the next year alone.”

Ms Rogacs said there had to be a three-pronged approach:

  • An effective strategy for political lobbying and campaigning on pay;
  • A recruitment, retention and organising strategy that is at the heart of everything the union does;
  • A high-profile media and publicity campaign.

Delegates heard how low pay was afflicting members, particularly women, with many forced to turn to food banks and payday loan sharks to solve their problems.

Jo Morgan of the national women’s committee said that women were “firmly shut out of the economic recovery.”

She added that since the financial crisis, almost one million more women had moved into typically low-paid and insecure jobs, with one in eight on zero-hours contracts.

“What that means for women is heartbreaking,” she said.

 

The conference also discussed the way that the increasing outsourcing of council services was weakening the TUPE regulations and adding to the pressures on the NJC terms and conditions, which could “wither on the vine”.

Joyce Guthrie of the Northern Region said that local government workers were already the “poor relations” on pay across both public and private sectors.

Increased outsourcing to the private sector meant that the NJC pay and conditions faced collapse, she said. Employers were taking the opportunity to create local bargaining pay structures.

It was accepted that promoting in-house council services was the best means to retain jobs within local government and maximise the numbers of staff directly employed on NJC terms.

The service group executive was charged with campaigning for the survival of the NJC as the mechanism for pay awards for staff delivering local government services.

A further motion was passed that supported initiatives in the local government service group to campaign for a £10 living wage.

Mark Chiverton of South East region said that the current rate of the living wage was no longer realistic. “It’s time we raised our sights.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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