On 7 May, Unsion representatives on the National Joint Council (NJC, which negotiates local government pay) voted by 14-13 not to recommend rejection of the latest pay offer of 1%.
It was agreed it would be made clear that this is the best that can be achieved by negotiation, but not to make a recommendation either way.
When inflation is running between 3-4% and in the context of previous years’ pay cuts and freezes, this offer is another cut.
Local government bosses initially offered 0.6%, or 1% with some strings. These were both rightly rejected by Unison.
The “strings” were essentially further attacks on our terms and conditions: cuts in car allowances, sick pay, annual leave, and a reduction in continuous service provision.
Whilst Unison was right to reject the offer with the strings, it is clear that 1% in itself isn’t acceptable.
Part of the problem was that Unison’s pay claim was unclear — it was for an unspecified “substantial” amount. Unison should have put in a percentage claim with an additional flat rate for lower-paid workers.
Despite the Unison leadership’s distortions, it is not true that branches are not allowed to distribute material contradicting national recommendations (or lack of them).
Some branches campaigned for rejection of the shoddy pensions deal in 2011. We need to campaign for rejection of this pay offer.
A position of rejection has already been agreed by Unison regions in London, the North West, Scotland, and Wales. Campaigning will be difficult, as postal ballots are by their nature individual and isolating. We need to have arguments about the alternative in our workplaces, and hold meetings on this issue.
There are members who think that if we accept a pay cut, we’ll save jobs — but the job cuts we have faced in local government (which some estimates put as high as 20%) at the same time as a pay freeze show this isn’t the case.
We need to produce literature that shows people how much they have lost since 2008 and start building confidence for a fightback.