Public sector workers’ union Unison has won re-recognition at Plymouth City Council after bosses unilaterally broke off relations with the union following its refusal to sign a new agreement on staff pay and conditions.
After the union’s legal team advised them that accepting the new terms could have implications relating to equal pay legislation, because of the way in which lower-paid workers (who are more likely to be women) were most adversely affected, Unison withdrew from the agreement and found themselves promptly frozen out of further negotiations and thrown out of their branch offices. GMB and Unite, the other two unions organising at the council, subsequently withdrew from the agreement and a campaign to win Unison’s re-recognition was launched.
After a series of meetings, lunchtime rallies and other protests, including a members’ meeting which voted in principle to move to industrial action if re-recognition was not secured, the council caved on Wednesday 14 September and agreed to re-recognise Unison. They also agreed to make changes to the terms of the new contracts and, following a Unison branch meeting, the agreement was signed by all three unions.
Question marks and confusion still hang over the deal itself; council bosses are claiming that the changes pertain only to the implementation date of pay cuts, while union sources have announced that the scale of the cuts themselves had been reduced.
While the successful campaign to win re-recognition for Unison is undoubtedly a victory, council workers are now facing worse terms and conditions. GMB organiser Stuart Fegan said “this agreement will have a significant financial impact on members and we will continue to work hard with the council to mitigate that impact as far as possible.”
Unison branch secretary Darren Turner commented: “We do not support cuts, and will continue to fight wherever they are planned.”