Branch Urges you to Reject
If your pay rise is set by the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services then we will soon be consulting you about the NJC Employers’ side pay offer for 2013/14.
After many years of below-inflation pay rises; followed by 3 years of a total pay freeze; followed with severe pay restraint this year; and more already set out by this government for at least a further 3 years it is genuinely important that all our members take part in this consultation.
The offer is a derisory 1%. At the very top of the NJC pay spine it is only worth around £6.10 per week after deductions. As ‘compensation’ for the pay freeze that we have already endured this works out around £1.52 per week averaged over the 4 year period. For the 1 million NJC workers who earn less than £21,000 per year it is a measly £3.05 per week after deductions, or around just 76p per week averaged over the 4 year period. For the half million of those workers earning below £15,000 per year it is even less.
With inflation at 2.8% (CPI) and 3.3% (RPI) it is glaringly obvious this pay offer is actually a pay cut of around 2%. It is little wonder that our living standards have plummeted by over 16% since 2010 and that in real terms our pay is now worth more than 10% less than it was in 1996. And for those of us in pension schemes linked to earnings this continual drop in pay will hit us for the rest of our lives, unless we do something about it.
The UNISON NJC Committee, made up of UNISON members elected by their Regions or other bodies, agreed at its meeting on 7 May 2013 the NJC Employers’ below-inflation pay offer falls far below our aspirations and what we deserve. The Committee also believes that as things stand it is the best offer achievable by negotiation. Heather Wakefield, our National Secretary for Local Government, told The Municipal Journal the unions unanimously deplored the deal as falling way short of expectations. In a recent article for Public Finance Heather also said, “It seems that, without a fight, there will be little scope for sector-wide pay negotiation at all until after the 2015/16 pay round”. That shows how serious the situation has become – we are effectively talking about whether ‘national’ pay bargaining has any future because things have now got so bad.
A pay offer at a third of inflation would be a slap in the face at the best of times. But NJC workers are already the lowest paid sector and it is getting worse by the month. In a recent survey of local government members UNISON found that 53% were in debt, with 11% owing more than £20,000.
That is why UNISON is now consulting members on whether or not to accept the offer or reject and commit to a programme of sustained industrial action.
The Regional Service Group is made up of representatives from all our North West local government branches. At its meeting on 9 May we unanimously agreed to urge all our members to engage in the consultation and to reject this insulting offer.
In Scotland UNISON members have already decisively rejected a 1% offer and are moving towards an industrial action ballot. We now have the opportunity to do likewise in London, the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This is not something we take lightly. We are members ourselves and we know the fears over job security and the pressures of restructures and extra work. We deal with this day in and day out. But accepting poverty pay levels – and two thirds of all NJC workers fall beneath this government’s own low pay threshold – is not saving any jobs. Nearly 400,000 have gone in local government since 2010 and London has been badly hit. The forecast is not getting sunnier anytime soon so having our living standards decimated is not a trade for job safety.
UNISON has produced and commissioned reams of research showing how bad the situation really is. As UNISON members we know that because we are living it. Nobody is disputing it. The NJC employers don’t dispute it. The government doesn’t dispute it. But currently they will not do anything about it. So as it stands we only have ourselves to turn to. If we do nothing, we can expect only more of the same – we cannot just wait and hope for a change of heart. It isn’t going to happen, unless we take the initiative to make it happen collectively.
We need to be prepared to campaign and take action for fair pay because we deserve fair recognition of our value and we deserve dignity. The choice is in our own hands.