Tuesday, October 21, 2014

London local government workers still in the dark about pay proposals

‎When I blogged a few days ago about having at last had sight of a ballot paper in order to consult members on the disgraceful proposals on local government pay I was almost guilty of premature balloting.

Honestly! That never happens to me!

As it turns out, in respect of a process of consultation which - according to UNISON's website commenced five days ago - and in respect of which we must have issued ballot papers to our members so that they are back with us in three weeks - we STILL don't have detailed proposals or a ballot paper (see below).

Suggestions by regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris conspiracy-theorist) that the lack of prompt attention to the London pay spines was calculated to reduce the consultation response in one of the two UNISON Regions solidly opposed to the squalid capitulation being offered to us are‎ - of course - wide of the mark.

‎It is, however, true that local government workers in London (in all three unions) are still in the dark about the meaning of the "proposals" the existence of which provided the threadbare justification for calling off last week's strike.

Sent: 21 October 2014 17:00
Subject: NJC Consultation Update
Importance: High

Dear Branch Secretary

I am very sorry to report that we have had problems with regard to the interpretation of the NJC pay proposals when applied to London.  We met with the employers today and put forward some proposals designed to resolve these matters.  They have gone away to consider them and will be back with their response as soon as possible, but in any event before the end of the week. 

I am very sorry that this is causing a further delay to the consultation in London, which I know is frustrating.  However it is a complex offer and we need to make sure we have an accurate proposal on which to ballot our members.

Regional Manager
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GMB Brighton reject the local government pay proposals


It's not just UNISON activists and branches who are seeing through the shamefully inadequate pay proposals which have emerged from the national pay "negotiations".

The link above is to a temporary blog from Brighton's GMB Branch (a flagship branch for their trade union with a reputation for robust defence of members' interests which has spread far beyond Sussex).

Brighton GMB set out, clearly and coherently, why the pay proposals should be rejected. (I should add that I am quite certain that my friends and comrades in the local UNISON branch agree with them!)

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


‎So, now I do have the wording of the ballot paper to issue to our members in order to consult them about the disgraceful pay proposals.

I don't have the spreadsheet which shows how the proposals impact upon individual members - but that doesn't matter too much to me as an Inner London Branch Secretary as it appears that no one has yet bothered to work that out for us.

I note that the email suggests that I should only send members the national leaflet which I have not yet been sent. 

I think that - like any Branch Secretary worth his (or her) salt I shall ignore this risible direction.

The sad excuses for trade unionists who failed to recommend rejection of this appalling set of proposals have already breached our Rules.

Anyone who says that activists should not tell the truth to members about how utterly unacceptable these proposals are will be breaching our Rules ‎too.

I am proud to be a member of UNISON and to stand alongside the many good activists who have done so much for our members over so many years.

I am ashamed to be part of any organisation which would tolerate within its ranks those who would try to "sell" to our members the disgraceful pay proposals.

I think that all those implicated in this scandal - from the General Secretary down - should best resign now.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

How not to organise a pay consultation


‎Yesterday it was announced that consultation with UNISON members on the scandalously inadequate pay proposals would commence today.

This consultation will be undertaken by branches.

As a Branch Secretary I have yet to have sight of the question we are supposed to ask our members, so that we can print ballot papers, stuff envelopes and distribute same to our members.

Nor, for that matter, do we have the detail promised following Monday's meeting of the Joint Secretaries.

It is as well I didn't cancel my attendance at pensions training this afternoon to stuff envelopes.

And, since I'm learning about "basis points" I may have another way to describe the pay proposals soon...

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Local Government Pay Update - Pants On Fire!

As flagged up here earlier, a circular (NJC Bulletin Issue No. 52) has come out to UNISON branches. Unfortunately it has caused some combustion in the britches.

The circular says;
“Very tough discussions took place during September. These resulted in the LGA coming forward with the initial proposals which were circulated to branches in NJC Pay Bulletin 48. UNISON made it clear that these were not acceptable at a meeting with the employers on 2 October and the LGA then came back with the revised proposals which were circulated to you on 10 October. These include an additional lump sum for those on scale point 26 and above to be paid on 1 April 2015. This is to ensure that no-one would receive less than the equivalent of 1% in cash value in 2014 - when the 2.2% increase in January 2015 and the non-consolidated lump sum are combined.”

The truth is;
Members on the national pay spine at SCP26 and above will be worse off as at 31 March, as the additional lump sum won’t be paid until April 2015 (and of course it is worse to receive money later rather than sooner).

The circular says;
“The Committee [NJC Committee on 25 September] also asked the negotiators to return to the LGA and say that the proposals were not acceptable and seek further negotiations. There was also concern that the proposals didn’t amount to a final offer and could not be guaranteed until the LGA had consulted councils. This is because the LGA has its own consultation procedures and had only consulted councils on the initial March offer. A further date for an NJC Committee meeting was set for 9 October to consider any developments. The negotiators did as requested by the NJC Committee and revised proposals were secured.”

The truth is;
The NJC Committee on 25 September agreed to reject the pay proposals for three reasons;
·         That the lump sum amounted to less than the back pay on 1% (it still does in 2014/15);
·         That the overall impact of the 2.2% on basic pay does not begin to compensate our members for the loss of earnings and the hardship they face (it still doesn’t), and;
·         The proposals are not a formal offer which can be consulted on under UNISON’s pay consultation procedures (they still aren’t).

The circular says;
“Meanwhile GMB and Unite both took decisions to suspend the strike action on 14 October and consult members over the initial proposals, which they circulated to their members. Although we had not suspended the strike action UNISON was then placed in a position where we had to circulate the proposals too, as we did not want members to find out about them from other unions.”

The truth is;
This blog is clearly not here to make excuses for the officials of other trade unions. However, until UNISON had called off the strike action on 14 October, the minority unions (GMB and UNITE) were clearly still telling their members that strike action would go ahead – after the proposals had been circulated. 

The circular says;
“Finally, the Committee [NJC Committee on 9 October] considered what its recommendation to members should be in the consultation. There was a unanimous view that the proposals could not be recommended and that we should consult our members on the following basis:
‘The UNISON NJC Committee’s view is that the employers’ pay proposals for 2014/16 fall far below the aspirations in our 2014/15 pay claim and what members deserve.  However, the Committee believes it is the best achievable by negotiation and that only sustained all out strike action could achieve an improved pay offer.’” 

The truth is;
The General Secretary advised the Committee of correspondence received from the employers which is in the public domain (courtesy of our Manchester branch) and this was influential in their decision.

Incidentally, we already knew that sustained all out strike action was necessary to secure a decent pay rise and had voted for, and taken, national industrial action on that basis.

I shall enquire as to when the next meeting of the National Health and Safety Committee is so that we can consider how to deal with trouser-related conflagration at the UNISON Centre.

The best way to extinguish this fire will doubtless be to reject the rubbish pay proposals.

Jumping the gun?


UNISON members familiar with Rule B.2.2 will know that we are a member-led trade union.

This afternoon we received a lesson in what this means in practice.

At 14.54 the story to which I link above appeared on the UNISON website. It says that consultation on the pay proposals will begin tomorrow. This is news to branches who had been told consultation would begin next week.

At 15.37 an email went out to elected members of the UNISON National Joint Council (NJC) Committee went out asking for responses by midday tomorrow (16 October) confirming that the Committee members are happy with a timetable that will require members to respond to branches so that branches can report their results to Regions by 5pm on Wednesday 12 November.

The circular to Committee members does not give them a deadline within which to respond if they are not happy with this fairly tight timetable (which is intended, for no obvious reason, to match the timetable which the Local Government Association (LGA) have set to consult local authorities as to whether the "proposals‎" will even become an "offer").

Branches do ‎not yet have adequate details of the precise meaning of the proposals (particularly not as they relate to the Inner or Outer London pay spines or in areas in receipt of fringe allowances). Nor have we been told the question which we are to put on ballot papers.

Still, we know our Union has great confidence in us as it has publicised that we will commence consultation with our members tomorrow.

Branches need to gear up to maximise turn out to reject these appalling proposals.

Update at 16.54

Thanks to UNISON colleagues for correcting an error in the post to which I link above (which had referred to the pay proposals as an "offer"). That correction was made within ten minutes of my pointing it out to the Website Manager.

If only the proposals themselves could be subject to favourable amendment as easily!

UNISON local government branches - support Manchester's call for a Special Conference!

Yesterday the influential Manchester local government branch of UNISON published an appeal to UNISON local government branches to requisition a Special Local Government Conference.
For the conference to take place it requires branches representing 25% of the Service Group membership to requisition. This is what Manchester have to say;

“If your branch agrees to do this then send this email to Heather Wakefield, Head of the Local Government Service Group at h.wakefield@unison.co.uk
Dear Heather
I am writing on behalf of our Branch to requisition a Special Local Government Service Group Conference.
In accordance with UNISON Rule D3.4.11 on xx.xx.xx date our Branch / Branch Executive agreed unanimously to call for the requisition of a Special Local Government Service Group Conference to consider the following business:
  • The 2014-2016 NJC Pay Proposals.
  • The decision to cancel strike action on 14th October.
  • The future Pay Consultation protocols in respect of Local Government pay claims.
  • The best means to secure a decent pay increase for Local Government members and to receive and consider all motions from Branches and Regions concerning the above.
Could you then please email us at unison@manchester.gov.uk to let us know and tell us your branch name and NJC membership as of 1st January 2014 so we know when we have reached 25%.
Thank you for your support.”

This is a timely and appropriate step, asserting our trade union democracy and holding out the last hope of retaining national unity of the local government workforce.

If we can secure rejection of the pay insult from the national negotiations then the Special Conference gives us an opportunity to chart a path forward for our dispute – and if we cannot then the Conference will be an opportunity to learn from the grave errors which have been made. In either case it will be valuable (and well worth the cost – which will be the only argument advanced against it by reactionaries within UNISON).

Whilst those of us who want to see decent pay for local government workers are rightly sharply critical of the majority of the NJC Committee for caving in to pressure, and of the trade union General Secretaries for their role in this fiasco, we have to recognise that the weakness of so much of our lay (and full-time) leadership reflects the unevenness of the organisation and motivation of our activists and membership across the country.

The errors which we are now trying to correct (by securing rejection of the pay insult) were not only made on Thursday 9 October, but over a longer period of time (over we did not organise or motivate members consistently or sufficiently).

The Special Conference needs to be a forum for an honest, serious and comradely debate about the future of our national trade union in its largest service group.

Solidarity with workers taking action this week - you've got it right!

Congratulations to PCS members taking action today in the fight for fair pay and to UNISON members in the health service taking action short of strike action.

Public service workers deserve a decent pay rise – and will only get this by taking action. In local government, our pay has only ever edged ahead of increases in average earnings after national strike action.

Local Government workers who discover that the reason our National Joint  Council (NJC) Committee suspended our strike action and failed to recommend rejection of unsatisfactory proposals is because they were doing what they were told by the employers will conclude that we should soon be joining our comrades in other unions again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vote No to Poverty Pay - the single


For those who don't like to read through motions about local government pay (who may be reading the wrong blog?) here is a link to the views of the Barnet branch on the disgraceful pay proposals.

I look forward to a barbers shop quartet of the three General Secretaries and Brian Strutton singing their justification for the proposals!

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

North West Says No to Capitulation on Local Government Pay


Here is a link to a useful new unofficial blog with important new information about the official decision of UNISON's North West Regional Local Government Service Group to campaign for rejection of the pay proposals which are now out for consultation.

With the executive of the Birmingham local government branch having taken a similar decision, local government workers begin to have a fighting chance of securing rejection of proposals about which the North West rightly express their "incredulity."

The key will be to maximise turnout of members voting to reject the proposals.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Return of the Pay Calculator - see how much you've lost!

I am very pleased to report that the UNISON online pay calculator for local government is back online – so local government and school workers can see just how much the pay freeze has cost us. Thanks are due to colleagues at the UNISON Centre for sorting this out promptly.

And while that may be something which will influence us in our decision about the latest pay proposals, I hope it will also be encouragement to come along to demonstrate on Saturday!

The mystery of the dispute over authorship of the local government pay proposals

For centuries, scholars have contested the authorship of the works commonly attributed to William Shakespeare. 

Now local government workers in England Wales and Northern Ireland face a new mystery.

Who came up with the pay proposals on which we are about to be consulted?

The employers say that the proposals were proposed to the LGA (Local Government Association) by the trade unions.

The GMB, however, say that the proposals were put forward by the LGA

UNITE just refer to the “new improved proposal” as “the best achievable by negotiation” and UNISON’s branch briefing just refers to “final proposals” (although a report of a meeting last week does refer to our having called for “improved proposals.”)

It’s very odd that no one appears keen to take responsibility for these “new improved proposals” particularly not if they are “the best achievable by negotiation.”

Or perhaps it is not so odd.

Let's reject them anyway, since they are in fact complete rubbish?

Local Government Pay - the missing link...

Health workers who are being encouraged to campaign for fair pay can read on the UNISON website how much the pay freeze has made them worse off by using our pay calculator.

Until very recently the same facility was available for local government workers – and branches such as West Sussex quite properly and admirably linked to the calculator on their websites as they campaigned as the national union was encouraging them to, for members to take action on 14 October.

Just now though – if you follow the link the local government pay calculator it appears to be broken.

I’m sure that this is just due to some Gremlins (perhaps someone fed them after midnight?)

After all, our Union would not be so disrespectful of our own members as to take down such a pay calculator precisely at the point in time at which, having suspended strike action, we are about to consult our members on a set of pay proposals which have faced widespread opposition.

That would be unthinkable.

I look forward to blogging about the restoration of this missing link!

Update at 16.26 - I am pleased to report that the calculator is back online (see the comments on this post). As I am not slow to criticise I won't be slow to thank colleagues at the UNISON Centre for the speed with which this has been sorted out.