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

Monday, 19 March 2012

Attack on national pay bargaining - Forward to the 1930s

A well-known 19th century philosopher said that 'history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce'. Judging by the announcement that the coalition government plans to abolish national pay deals in the public services , he was spot on. Acceptance of the principle of national bargaining in the public services was won in 1940, but only after years of sustained campaigning by progressive trade unions.

These unions successfully demonstrated that variations in pay across different regions were unfair, irrational and undermined the morale of those working in public services. With the argument won, successive national bargaining arrangements were set-up during and after the war years, culminating in those for the newly established NHS in 1948.

Although far from perfect, these national agreements have been beneficial for all parties in that they recognise the sense in having one set of negotiations where the arguments can be thrashed out. Duplicating this across hundreds of employers makes no sense and would, eventually, take us back to the situation present in the 1930s described by NUPE general secretary, Bryn Roberts (pictured), where he found a town 'in which there were two institutions. The male staff nurse in one works eight hours per week less and receives 8s 6d (a lot of money in 1937) more than the male staff nurse in the other despite the fact that they perform identical duties. It makes me wonder if the right people are confined inside the institution.'

For more how national bargaining was secured for public service workers in the UK read the newly published 2nd volume of NUPE's history - 'Leadership and Democracy A History of the National Union of Public Employees Vol 2 1928-1993' http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/books/archive/leadership.html