by James Thompson Steward, Branch Assistant Secretary
As you will be aware, a decision was taken by UNISON last October to suspend industrial action over pay. Members were balloted over a set of proposals that amounted to a 2.2% pay increase over 2 years. Whilst our members in Kensington & Chelsea overwhelmingly voted to reject the proposals, the overall nationwide result was to accept.
Not only were branches like ours opposed to the pay proposals, we were unhappy about the way negotiations had been handled and the lack of any consultation with branches and members before the decision to call-off strike action was taken. We also felt that information given to members regarding the proposals was confusing and did not include the pay figures for London until much later on in the process.
As a result we took a decision to work with other branches to call for a Special Local Government conference to discuss these issues and to try and ensure that members would be involved in key decisions of this nature in the future.
That conference took place in London on 24th march and three delegates from our branch (Sonya Howard, Albert Dornelly and Felicity Scott) attended.
The key outcomes of that Conference are as follows:
- Any future decision to postpone strike action can only take place after consultation with branches.
- All future negotiations with the employers over pay, terms and conditions must involve representatives democratically elected by the members.
- All pay negotiations must be governed by the rules determined by our annual Local Government Conference – as this is a conference attended by ordinary members on behalf of their branches.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the Conference took a decision not to wait until 2016 for another pay rise and instead to lodge a pay claim for 2015/16 for the full-time equivalent Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and for an equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points and NJC related salaries. This would effectively amount to more than £1/hour extra.
The key step forward following yesterday’s conference is that we will now be lodging a new pay claim during an election year rather than waiting twelve months and missing our best opportunity to ensure that local government workers are respected and fairly treated by whoever is elected in May.