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

Sunday 27 May 2012

Organising for the Living Wage

The UNISON Living Wage victory at St George's hospital in London puts the focus on how branches can make a real difference for workers at local level. Cleaners at the Medical School will get a new London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour. It comes on the back of another victory for the branch in 2008 (see pic) when they won up to £75 a week for cleaners employed by ISS.

The long campaign has brought a recognition agreement with Ocean Facilities and the new hourly rate of £8.30 per hour will be introduced on 1st August 2012. http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2708

Branches around the country have been working away at winning Living Wage deals. The Living Wage campaign has yielded £96m in topped-up wages for thousands of workers over the past 10 years, according to a study by Queen Mary College, University of London: http://unisonactive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/10-years-of-campaigning-for-living-wage.html

Branches and service groups have won the living wage through a range of strategies. Bargaining, political lobbying, partnership, broad community campaigns and industrial action but, whatever the route, organisation underpins it all. It all points to activists putting imagination into the campaign and learning the lessons of what works in their particular sphere. A UNISON leaflet lists some of the employers where the living wage has been won http://www.unison.org.uk/livingWage/files/WhoPaystheLivingWage.pdf

In 2008 Manchester, in the first move of its kind by a local authority outside London, unions working with the Labour council saw a deal to bring a minimum wage not only to council workers but with a strategy to roll it out across the city.

In 2009 The Scottish Living Wage Campaign was set up by a range of community, trade union and campaigning organisations including the STUC the Poverty Alliance, the Scottish Churches Social Inclusion Network and the Scottish Interfaith Council. UNISON provided expertise from its work in London and campaigned with political parties to get them to adopt a living wage policy.

Its first success was achieved with the announcement by Glasgow City Council that it would pay at least the Living Wage to all its employees. Living wage victories followed in places like West Dunbartonshire Council in 2010 and Stow College in 2011, the latter after a succesful campaign of industrial action. In March last year UNISON won a Living Wage of £7.29 for 4,500 people in NHS Scotland.

The new political complexion in Scotland after the May local elections should bring more opportunities for branches. A point picked up by the latest issue of UNISON Scotland's activists' magazine as it urged branches to get working on the new council administrations to demand they live up to their promises. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/siu/index.html

"Over half of the councillors elected on 5 May were committed to a Living Wage for all council staff", says the magazine. "This puts a living wage for all our members within our grasp – because this isn’t a bargaining issue any more - it’s a political one.

"Councillors secured election promising to tackle low pay. We should be scrutinising the coalition deals struck and waste no time in setting up meetings with SNP and Labour Group Leaders reminding them of their pledge to our members and their electorate."