You will have seen the circular detailing the revised employer pay proposals tentatively proposed by National Employers negotiators though not actually endorsed by the full employers side.
Our pay claim dates from 1st April 2014 in which respect the employers initial offer was to continue with the Government 1% pay limit.
Members rightly rejected this and we took strike action on 10th July and will be again on 14th October to secure a significantly improved offer.
WHAT ARE THE NEW PROPOSALS?
The employers have suggested no pay increase at all from April 2014 and a 2 year settlement involving paying a 2.2% increase for most people (above SCP 11) from January 2015 through till March 2016.
It was expected that the employers starting position in respect of 2015/2016 would again be 1% so on the surface the difference is 0.2 of 1%.
But because of the proposed no pay increase from April 2014 till January 2015, assuming the employers stuck to 1% in both years, the effective ‘increase’ is only 0.19 of 1%.
WHAT ABOUT THE LUMP SUM
It is suggested that staff over SCP 11 (the vast majority) would receive a one off non consolidated payment of £100 (before deductions) in December 2014, but this for most people would not even cover the loss of the strike days.
AND THE LOWEST PAID?
As detailed in the National circular the proposals include varying higher one off non consolidated lump sum payments and varying higher % pay increases for the least paid (under SCP 11).
But the truth is the employers would have to do most of that anyway to ensure they do not break the law by paying those at the bottom in Local Government less than the statutory Minimum Wage and to conform to the Living Wage.
The % increases may seem significantly higher for the lowest paid but is low in cash terms and in practice would benefit very few employees in Manchester where the Living Wage has been brought in.
The new two year proposal needs to be viewed in direct comparison to the current one year offer of 1% for 2014/15 and a minimum anticipated 1% offer for next year 2015/16.
Paying a 2 year increase only over the last 15 months of the 2 year pay period creates a false impression that this new proposal has any extra in it for anyone or indeed even for the very lowest paid.
In fact it does not.
If you work out – at any SCP – how much you would earn in total over the full two years of 14/15 + 15/16 under the new proposal and the same under 2 x the current 1% offer the outcome is virtually identical all the way through the pay spine.
The employers in presenting the new proposals in this (at first glance) complicated way is the sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, a street magician card trick they hope will stop members from looking too closely at the detail and creates a false impression.
WHAT WAS THE UNISON RESPONSE?
At the National meeting of UNISON elected representatives on 25 September after a full day’s discussion it was unanimously agreed to reject the employers negotiators request that the strike on 14th be called off and to reject the minuscule variation of such a small increase in the offer.
The employers lead negotiators said they would ONLY consult councils (!) on this minor increase if the unions first called off the strike on 14th October!
To cancel the strike and consult members nationally on a minimal change not even agreed by Councils would undermine any chance of delivering on obtaining a significant and meaningful increase in the offer.
Varying the offer of an increase by only 0.19% after our taking action is an insult to our members and we would not insult them further by cancelling the proposed further action for such a derisory amount.
The current offer of 1% this year and next year is a position we have already rejected and balloted over.
Why would any serious trade union negotiators want to call off planned action to consult on a proposal that, whilst dressed up differently, in cost terms is virtually identical (to within +/-, quite literally, a few pounds) to one we have already rejected and taken action over!!!!!!
All this in an environment where members are expected to accept a fifth year of zero or less than inflation pay increases.
The employers must realise they need to take our members pay seriously.
WHAT DO OTHER UNIONS SAY
GMB and UNITE are entitled to their own view on behalf of their members.
They support calling off the strike on 14th October to consult on the employers proposals, and are presumably prepared to consider accepting them.
Further meetings with the employers and national joint union meetings are to be held and it is not yet clear what the final position of other unions will be.
Whilst it is always preferable to have joint union agreement UNISON is by far and away the biggest trade union in local government and our members need to take action in support of their pay cannot be restricted by minority organisations having a different view.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
On 30th September UNISON nationally called on the employers to make a formal offer and significantly improve their proposals.
Meetings with employers and between unions will continue and any significant developments will be reported immediately.
In the interim members should ignore misleading information from the employers and anyone desperate to end the dispute no matter what the cost to our members.
In the meantime our arrangements for strike action on 14th October are continuing.
Stewards meeting have been arranged, pickets are being briefed, packs of materials are being organised for every picket line.
We need to make the strike as effective as possible to make employers recognise they need to make an improved offer to even begin to address the chronic level of pay in local government.
Please bring this to the attention of all UNISON members in your workplace.