UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

NJC Pay - Time to fight not 'suffer' in silence

Widespread anger amongst local government workers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales has greeted the refusal of local authority employers to make any pay offer for the third successive year. It begs the question, despite ritualistic submission of annual pay claims, whether collective bargaining actually exists in the National Joint Council (NJC) for local government workers?

The employers' secretary Sarah Messenger responded on 23 February to the union claim for a 'substantial' pay rise with a mixture of condescension and contempt:

"The National Employers have now considered the claim following extensive consultation with councils and have decided that they are unable to make an offer for 2012/13. There is genuine sympathy for the position of the lower-paid but councils told us that the economic situation is such that any pay award could only be met through further job losses and cuts to services. The National Employers are clear that the priority must be to continue to seek to protect jobs and services in light of the huge budgetary pressures councils are facing.

"You will be aware that this will be the third consecutive year that the local government workforce has not received a pay offer. This is unprecedented in the public sector. With this in mind, the National Employers would wish to avoid a situation of not being able to make a pay offer for a fourth year in 2013/14 and therefore invite you to commence discussions immediately on a range of related issues covering pay, terms and conditions and reform of the national negotiating machinery with a view to reaching agreement for implementation on 1 April 2013.

"The Employers understand that their decision to not make a pay offer this year will obviously come as a disappointment to your members but we hope that they will understand why we think this is the appropriate decision."

Meanwhile the Municipal Journal reports that 95% of local councils will acquiesce to Government pressure to freeze council tax in 2012/13 - voluntarily compounding the financial pressures arising from spending cuts and making a mockery of local democracy. A cynical consideration in those decisions across the political spectrum has been a willingness to achieve financial savings at the expense of local government workers and the living standards of our families:

UNISON's press release on this issue contained an unfortunate reference to local government workers 'suffering a third year of pay misery'. But we have a choice in this matter and it's long overdue for the NJC unions to take stand against the downward spiral of earnings in local government. Inflation in January stood at at 3.6% and will remain in excess of 2% for the rest of 2012.

Allowing the employers to go unchallenged will mean a third year of cuts in real earnings at a time of rising energy, food and transport costs. GMB, UNISON and Unite should launch a pay campaign to force the local government employers to think again about shifting the burden of spending cuts onto the workforce.