Category Archives: Reclaim the Union
Council Unions lodge dispute with the employers over pay claim – time to prepare for action!
By a council worker in Coventry
News is coming out that the three council unions – Unite, GMB and Unison, have lodged a formal dispute with the local government employers over the 2014/15 pay claim.
According to Unison, the employers have cancelled any further talks as they want to wait to see what the new minimum wage will be. The minimum wage is due to be increased in October of this year.
This is a complete insult to local government workers – our pay has fallen by 18 per cent since 2010 if you take inflation in to account.
Last year we got a measly 1 per cent increase, which in real terms was a pay cut. After the Coalition came in to power, all public sector workers earning under £21,000 were supposed to get a £250 payment. The local government employers refused to pay this. Our local Labour council, despite budgeting for this payment, scandalously refused to pay.
We are suffering massive cuts with worse to come. We are doing more for less pay. That rule doesn’t seem to apply to the bankers or the politicians though!
The leaderships of the three council unions need to give a lead. The employers have made it abundantly clear that they will not be meeting our claim of an increase of £1.20 per hour. We need to prepare for action. Now is the time to fight. This isn’t just about pay but about jobs and indeed the whole future of public services.
In October, we wrote
‘Members and activists within the 3 unions need to discuss how we can win a decent pay rise. We need to link the fight for a decent pay rise to that of saving jobs and services as they are very much part of the same battle. We saw on 30th November 2011 that when the unions co-ordinate their action, the fantastic effect that had on members. It was only the decision of the leaderships of the big unions to end the strike action that destroyed the momentum that had been built up. That can’t be allowed to happen again.’
Recent years have unfortunately shown that the old adage ‘weakness invites aggression’ to be true, as a lack of a national fightback from the leaderships of Unison, Unite and GMB to defends jobs and services has only encouraged further attacks on our members.
The employer needs to know that the unions are serious about fighting this latest attack – lets follow the lead of unions like the RMT who have shown that action gets results.
– Fight for the full pay claim
– No to attacks on jobs and services
– Prepare for nationally co-ordinated action
Local Government pay claim – No more ice sculptures should die in vain
Time for co-ordinated action!
By a Coventry council worker
The three trade unions representing council workers have agreed the pay claim.
The GMB website states
‘GMB, UNISON and Unite, the three unions representing 1.6 local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, on 16th October agreed to launch a major campaign for a minimum increase of £1 an hour to increase the bottom rate of pay in local government to raise it to a living wage hourly rate. The unions are calling for the same £1 an hour increase to also apply to all pay points above the bottom rate.’
Council workers, like all other sections of the working class, have seen our standard of living drop, as prices rise and our wages have nowhere near kept up with it. Year after year we are getting worse off. The latest announcements about the increase in utility prices underline the situation.
It is estimated that since 2008 we have lost 16 per cent in real earnings. Things need to change, or more and more council workers will be joining the queues at the local foodbanks.
So now the claim has gone in. What will happen now? Clearly the employers are not going to give it to us. The claim will need to be fought for. It seems year after year the union leaderships have put in claims, but haven’t really believed in them, and certainly haven’t had the guts to fight for it.
Little wonder that in the consultation meetings with members over the claim there was more than a degree of cynicism. Will our union leaderships fight? As one Unison member said in one meeting
‘Our negotiators need to show some testicular fortitude’.
This sums up the mood of many union members. After a truly lacklustre campaign last time where we ended up accepting 1 per cent, feelings of many were summed up by a union activist who commented at the time
‘How I feel about it is anger stabbed in the back shafted by my union because it’s the best deal they can get. 1% of nothing is crap and they have got a cheek to try and get new members because they are the union that gets things done! This is false advertising…..action is what’s needed not bull shit.’
This is how many activists have felt. It is in the context of the pensions dispute of 2011, and a general lack of a national strategy to defend jobs and services that frustration has grown.
The acceptance of the 1 per cent pay offer was after Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said we were going to ‘smash’ the pay freeze, destroying an ice sculpture in the process to illustrate our campaign. Unfortunately it did not live up expectations.
Members and activists within the 3 unions need to discuss how we can win a decent pay rise. We need to link the fight for a decent pay rise to that of saving jobs and services as they are very much part of the same battle. We saw on 30th November 2011 that when the unions co-ordinate their action, the fantastic effect that had on members. It was only the decision of the leaderships of the big unions to end the strike action that destroyed the momentum that had been built up. That can’t be allowed to happen again.
A number of unions are beginning to take action across different sectors. For example the CWU, FBU, NUT / NASUWT, UCU etc. Now is the time for the trade unions to co-ordinate the various disputes and name the day for joint action, for a 24 hour general strike.
The capitalist crisis has not gone away and we as members are suffering. The situation is even worse for whole swathes of unemployed workers, the youth, the sick and the elderly. We have to fight back now. To not lead a fightback now would be an abdication of responsibility. Socialist Party members in the trade unions will be building support for a strategy that can win a pay rise and can defeat the cuts, whilst at the same time building support for a socialist opposition to capitalism.
Help us in this task by joining the Socialist Party – click here
From the Archive – a letter sent from Unison stewards in Coventry to Dave Prentis
We are reproducing this letter from December 2011 sent to Dave Prentis the General Secretary of Unison, from a group of Unison stewards in Coventry. Unfortunately Dave was too busy to reply. It shows the anger of many Unison activists in the aftermath of a hugely successful day of industrial action, which the leadership of Unison, along with many other unions, proceeded to squander. This is why the Socialist Party is working hard in Unison and other unions to build up a strong, combative Socialist group within the union – in order to help reclaim our unions and to fight capitalist austerity. If you are interested in joining us in this important and vital work please click here
We wrote to you just before the TUC urging you to call on the TUC to name the date for the next round of industrial action.
We are extremely disappointed that not only has the TUC not named the date for action in early 2012, but that Brendan Barber and possibly also yourself (?) are putting forward that we sign up to an agreement that would merely see the pension changes delayed until 2014, and even that would be on the basis that when it come in, in 2014, that the unions would not protest about it!
This is simply not good enough. We as shop stewards at our work place spent months preparing for 30.11.11 – hours spent in our own time leafleting for a YES vote in the ballot, meetings and more leafleting in our own time to prepare the strike, win public support and to organise pickets.
Our members did us proud, in our office 95 per cent of people supported the strike (only about 7 out of 124 members of staff crossed), we had our biggest ever picket lines and this week we learnt our branch recruited 171 new members!
Our members responded, sacrificed a days pay because of what is at stake. They did that because they rightly supported what the union was doing. We have momentum, we have public support. We are outraged at what appears to be the attempt to sell what can’t even be described as a ‘deal’ to our members. This week our branch unanimously backed a motion calling for the date to be named with a programme of industrial action.
Now is the time to name the date for the next action, not to retreat! If reports that are coming out of the TUC are true, this is completely unacceptable. If the reports are incorrect, you need to publicly state what your position is and what you have been arguing for in the talks.
We would appreciate a response to this email, and would again urge you to do what is in the interests of our membership, and name the date for the next action.
Looking forward to hearing from you’
Main article from our latest bulletin – reject the 1% pay offer
The article below is taken from issue 17 of our bulletin for council workers in Coventry. The ballot in Unison has closed and the vote nationally was to accept. We will be posting an article on this next week. The results for GMB and Unite are expected soon. We think this article outlines why the offer should have been rejected, but just as importantly, the sort of approach that the unions should have taken with regard to pay. Socialists in the council unions will continue the struggle for fighting, democratic trade unions and for a combative socialist response to the cuts. If you want to help us in this important work, get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reject the pay offer! 1 per cent is an insult!
The three council unions, Unite, Unison and GMB are currently consulting their memberships in local government over the 1 per cent pay offer from the employers.
Council workers have not had a pay rise since 2009, and even in that year the award was just 1 per cent. As living costs have risen, we have got worse and worse off as we fall further and further behind. Coupled with the lack of a pay award that keeps up with rising day to day expenses has been the almost constant threat of redundancy, pension attacks, increased monitoring of performance, an over the top sickness policy, and much more. According to a Unison circular prior to a 2013 award, real headline pay is 14% below its 1996 levels.
Coventry City Council still owes us our £250
We were promised by the Chancellor that all public sector workers earning under £21,000 would receive £250 (a sort of sop for not giving us a proper pay increase) but we are yet to even receive this. By the way, let us not forgot that Coventry City Council budgeted for this increase but said they would not pay it, the money that was ear marked for us is somewhere in their coffers!
Fight needed for pay, jobs, public services
In the context of no pay award since 2009, there may be some union members who feel we should just take anything we can, and if we for go a pay award or take a minimal one, then our jobs are more likely to be saved. In reality this is not the case. For one, showing that we are not up for a battle over pay means they are more likely to come for our jobs and terms and conditions. A serious campaign over pay would be a serious declaration of intent. Perhaps more importantly, the bottom line is we need a pay award that makes a difference. Many council workers are struggling to pay rent, bills, mortgages. This needs to change.
What do we need to do?
The offer needs to be rejected. It is not acceptable. 1 per cent does not come anywhere near close to what we need. Unfortunately the national leaderships of the three unions are not recommending rejection and for the building of a serious campaign. They are not saying it is a good offer but ‘the best that is achievable by negotiation’ and that if we reject ‘ only sustained, all-out strike action could bring the employers back to the negotiating table.’ This is a complete and utter abdication of leadership. They are saying if we, the members, vote to reject then the apocalypse will come crashing down around us! Why aren’t our union leaders calling for a rejection, and then trying to link up with other trade unions who are in dispute with the government and looking to take action, such as PCS the civil service union?
If given a lead by our national unions then the members will respond. But in the meantime, all members should vote to reject the offer. And yes it may mean industrial action. But if the years since the Coalition came to power have taught us anything, it is that rational discussion and putting logical arguments to the employers alone will not get us anywhere. We need to start to use our collective power, to fight for decent pay, jobs and our public services. Council unions should build links with the PCS, NUT and any other unions willing to fight to take action.
Vote to reject the offer
Fight for decent pay, jobs and services