The proposal, of a 2.2% increase for most workers over two years with more for the very lowest paid, delivers less than the 1% already offered for most workers in 2014/2015 and slightly less than 1.2% for 2015/16. It effectively accepts pay restraint not only this year but through the first year of the next government.
UNISON’s NJC committee, the national body dealing with pay for the largest Local Government union, quite rightly voted not to consult on the “proposal” and to press ahead with the planned strike action on 14 October.
But the smallest of the LG unions, Unite, has announced it will consult their members on the proposal. Whilst the GMB is to put two options to a stewards’ conference: either to continue with or suspend strike action whilst engaging in talks to explore the proposal. UNISON may reconvene a meeting of their NJC committee pending the outcomes in the other unions.
Anyone looking at the detail of the proposal will be shocked that it can be seriously considered as a basis for a settlement:
· 2.2% increase payable from 1/1/2015, covering pay years 2014/15 and 2015/2016.
· Larger increases for the very lowest paid on Spinal column points 5 – 10 (from 8.56% to 2.32%)
· No back pay but unconsolidated payments of £100 for most workers, £150 for scp 8-10 and £325 for scp 5-7.
The delayed settlement date will mean less than 1% in cash this year for the majority. The proposal fails to deliver the Living Wage for the lowest paid – and indeed in those authorities where it has already been achieved the lowest paid could get no increase at all.
The danger now is that, as in the pensions dispute in 2011, one by one the Local Government unions pull back from strike action. Activists from all unions need to do what they can to call for Unite members to reject the proposal and for GMB stewards to vote to continue with the 14 October strike. If necessary UNISON, by far the biggest union in local government, must be prepared to go ahead with 14 October.
The strike is set to be part of a week of coordinated action:
Monday 13 October: Healthworkers
Tuesday 14 October: Local Government, UCU members in Further Education and possibly tube workers
Wednesday 15 October: Civil servants
Saturday 18 October: TUC demonstration “Britain Needs a Pay Rise”.
It comes when the Tory Government is reeling after resignations and defections having been rocked by the scale of the yes vote in Scotland – a vote that clearly reflected rejection of continued austerity.
Local Government unions should to be pressing the now Labour led Local Authority employers to come up with an offer that reverses the ongoing decline in real pay – down a shocking 20% since 2008 alone.
The announcement that all 15 ballots in Academy schools had recorded yes votes for joining the pay strikes had already boosted prospects for 14 October and demonstrated the real mood to fight on pay amongst local government and schools workers.
At a local level activists need to press ahead with plans for the strike. We should also be organising to get onto health workers pickets on Monday 13 October (7-11am). “Breakfasts on the picket line” could gather together all those who want to see decent pay and the defence of our health service.
Large pickets on 14 October will be essential to call on members of all unions to support the action, whilst local rallies can provide a focus for the day and allow rank and file members to discuss a strategy to win across unions.