UNISON local government delegates from across the UK met at a special conference in London yesterday to debate the lessons of the recent pay campaign and agree a set of strong proposals to increase member engagement and democratic participation in every aspect of future pay campaigns.
During a day of impassioned speeches and strong feelings about the impact of the government’s continuing pay freeze and years of declining pay in local government, a range of composites and motions were agreed.
Composite A recognised that “years of pay freezes and pay caps in local government mean that many of our members are now forced to rely on in-work benefits or to take on extra jobs…or even rely on food banks”.
It pledged the union to ensure a UK-wide perspective on all pay campaigning; to put women and gender equality at the heart of campaigning; to work jointly with other unions and to build bargaining and industrial strength through a massive recruitment and organising effort.
Most importantly, future campaigns needed to increase member participation and engagement in the fight for fair pay.
Delegates also agreed Composite B to amend the local government service group’s procedures to ensure that “meaningful, clear and transparent” consultation is carried out with branches.
It also called for at least one lay representative from the appropriate sector committees to have the opportunity to be involved in all pay negotiations.
Composite C called on the union to lodge an additional pay claim for 2015/16 with a settlement date of 1 April 2015 to include a Living Wage rate as the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and an equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other scale points.
Delegates agreed motions from Wales and Scotland calling for a range of measures to increase member engagement in pay campaigning and for the development of a “consistent, sustained and coherent political strategy, allied to our bargaining and industrial strategies.
UNISON Northern Ireland and Scotland moved a motion calling for future claims to be based on a strong central claim but allowing for local improvement in devolved nations, while opposing any moves to undermine National Joint Council bargaining or move towards regional or local bargaining.
The conference also agreed a report from the service group executive to alter the union’s pay consultation processes to improve participation – including allowing branches to carry out consultation using electronic polling methods.
Service group executive Glen Williams said electronic voting and polling was not intended to replace face to face consultation but supplement it.
“These are principled, practical proposals designed to increase participation,” he said.