Listing the catalogue of ‘offences’ ranging from simply refusing to meet the unions to discuss Pay, to deliberately failing to consult over critical documents such as the recent paper ‘Reducing Workforce Costs’ and then refusing to withdraw it when the lack of any debate was pointed out. Further acts of the proverbial two fingered salute to the unions were to add insult to injury when they chose to:
• Ignore the entire hypocrisy of a 0% pay ‘offer’ not actually representing an offer at all
• Ignore the reality of the current above 5% inflation rates, and the planned rise to 20% of VAT having a disproportionate detrimental impact on the 75% of low paid workers earning below £21,000 who will not even receive the paltry £250 offered as part of the pay ‘offer’
When Area Based Grants are slashed locally as a result of national policy decisions directly causing job losses in the poorer areas of local authorities, in addition to the reduction to Council’s ongoing budgets that will lead to the same, it is inevitable that for many Branches and Regions the priority is job security. Increasingly though, questions have begun to arise in Branch Committee meetings as well as Regional and National Committees asking when do we say ‘Enough is Enough’ and start the fight back that became the theme at Local Government and National Delegates’ Conference?
The General Secretary was right, ‘this is our time’ and we now need to act to oppose the increasing localisation of pay bargaining and the fragmentation of the Green Book. This will now include the offensive position the Employers have adopted over public sector pay.
The registering of a formal dispute by our NJC trade unions will mean the matter will be put before ACAS. Even the most skilled negotiators of our time cannot negotiate if there is nobody to talk to.
By absenting themselves from pay talks, the employer has declared their clear intention to ignore the alternative budget proposed by UNISON and to ‘take on’ public sector workers head on over pay. With pay, terms and conditions, job security, local bargaining, trade union facility time and our communities all now under attack, we are left to ponder what else is left for the employer to undermine, attack or dismantle before they force a reaction from the unions.
It is clear the NJC trade unions side have reached that stage of incredulity, frustration and anger at the treatment of the employer – how long before 1.4 million UNISON members do the same and become part of a real co-ordinated fight back? The 29th September and the European TUC Day of Action is a focal point but clearly not an end in itself. The recent rally and lobby over Academies was a well-attended, well covered in the media event, but not an end in itself.
The Million Voices Campaign is our ‘politics in one place’ and the banner upon which we hang many activities but not an end in itself. Actions speak louder than words and when one side refuses to exchange words, then action is called for. This is why the registering of the dispute over pay signals a welcome step forward. UNISON is beginning to adopt a strategic response to the threats the coalition present and by bringing its members along, actions will demonstrate that ‘enough really is enough’.
The ‘fight back’ will take various guises and will be at the varying levels of our union(s) – it should not be left to Branches, or Regions or National Offices to act independently of each other. For many it has already begun, but for the majority it remains to be seen – a dispute over pay is a signal that all have now had enough!
UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.