Category Archives: Reclaim the Union

Council Unions lodge dispute with the employers over pay claim – time to prepare for action!

Council Unions lodge dispute with the employers over pay claim – time to prepare for action!

Unite, Unison, GMB

Unite, Unison, GMB

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

Local Government pay claim – No more ice sculptures should die in vain

Time for co-ordinated action!

From this........

It paid the ultimate sacrifice

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

From the Archive – a letter sent from Unison stewards in Coventry to Dave Prentis

The General Secretary

The General Secretary

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 

‘Dear Dave

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

Main article from our latest bulletin – reject the 1% pay offer

pay

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 covcouncilsocialists@gmail.com

Issue 17

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

Interview with Dave Auger – newly elected member of UNISON NEC for the West Midlands

Interview with Dave Auger (in a personal capacity) – newly elected member of UNISON NEC for the West Midlands

We are pleased to announce that Socialist Party member Dave Auger has been elected to the UNISON National Executive Council, standing for the West Midlands Male Seat. He received 2834 to the 2556 votes of the incumbent. In this interview for our website, Dave, who is speaking in a personal capacity outlines why he stood and the sort of union he will fight for. Socialist Party supporters in UNISON congratulate Dave on this excellent victory; let us carry on with the fight for a fighting, democratic Unison.

Dave Auger speaks to Unison conference

Dave Auger speaks to Unison conference

 

Many stewards in the Coventry area campaigned for you, helping to give out your election literature, and no doubt persuaded people to vote for you. What would you like to say to them?

Dave A – Firstly, obviously to thank stewards who worked for my election and those who voted for me.

In my election address I did make the point that unlike a lot of elected NEC members , who you never see again, I am always available to attend your branch meetings , both to tell you what is going on nationally , but also to hear your concerns and issues

As part of the Reclaim the Union slate, you ran a campaign that was critical of the current national leadership of Unison. Can you explain a bit more about the sort of programme you were putting forward?

I have been critical of the current leadership, but have always believed it is not enough to be critical. If you believe as I do that they are not representing members then they need to be challenged, which is why I put myself forward.

The key word at the moment is recruitment and I agree on its importance. But workers join a union because it offers something and that is not just cheap insurance and holidays.

Council workers are afraid of losing their jobs , attacks on their terms and conditions and just as importantly services that they take a pride in providing.

They want a union that will fight to defend these things , which will give leadership to that fight.

What we have currently is a leadership that when it suits ‘talks the talk ‘ but never ‘walks the walk’. It invariably leads us up the hill only to lead us back down , whilst seeking to convince us that we have won or the membership are not up for a fight.

It does all this because it is wedded to the Labour Party, what they call a ‘link’ is actually a millstone which prevents us taking concerted action in case it embarrasses the Labour Party or challenges their own role in service cuts.

On issues such as pay, you were one of those who called for outright rejection of the 1 per cent offer. Where do you think the union are going wrong on issues such as pay and previously pensions?

The vote on the pay offer is a perfect example, the committee which makes the recommendation went from a unanimous stance of opposition to the offer to voting to make no recommendation. They said members were not up for a fight and were very defeatist.

Those who voted to recommend rejection did so on the basis that what members needed was leadership and encouragement ,that not only should it be rejected and action taken , but that not to do so would seriously weaken our union when we are under concerted attacks by government and employers.

How should we be responding to the massive jobs losses being proposed in local government and the public sector in general?

Employers have never welcomed unions with open arms , they have always accepted unions because they know the power we have can bring them to their knees. If we continue to surrender terms and conditions and services, they will just come back for more.

We have to fight and yes we have to convince many of our members who think keeping their heads down , that our continued existence depends on our fighting.

What experience, ideas and policies will you be bringing to the NEC? How long have you been an active trade unionist, tell us more about what branch you are from, your positions etc.

Dave supports striking PCS members

Dave supports striking PCS members

I have been a trade unionist for 40 years , I joined when I started work at 17.

I became politically active 30 years ago . I have been involved in many of the battles of the last 30 years both a trade unionist and community activist.

For the last 12 years I have been full-time deputy branch secretary of my branch which has a membership of 5500. So (without blowing my trumpet – tongue I cheek) I have a wide experience of representing and fighting for members and negotiating with employers. I am also the Regional International Officer because international solidarity is central to our work as trade unionists.

What is your view of the current situation, with regards to the Labour Link?

I have no problem with UNISON members being members of the Labour Party, I know some very good ones. However the Labour Link has a control over the union which I believe is unhealthy and produces many of the problems I have already outlined. But why should we be supporting a party which is responsible for many of the attacks on us?

Their control is such that you can find yourself in the nonsensical situation as a branch where you are affiliated to your local Labour Party, at a time when that same Labour Party as your council employer is attacking your members jobs and services!

You are a member of the Socialist Party and very open about your political affiliation. Can you tell us why you are a member and why you would urge Unison members and council workers in general to think about joining the Socialist Party?

I joined the Labour Party in 1981 with the naive impression that this was the party of the working class. It quickly became apparent that this was not the case!

I quickly became a member of Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) because only they among the Left in the Labour Party were serious about fighting for the working class and recognised that only a socialist society could achieve this. Since I and many others were  expelled the Labour Party has drifted further to the right . Since those days I have always found the position  of the Socialist Party to be generally spot on in terms of both perspectives and tactics.

I would encourage all workers to consider joining the Socialist Party.

Thank you for your time Dave, and best of luck

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