STRIKE – FAQs

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SOME REGULAR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Q and A

Unison have compiled a list of frequently asked questions regarding the strike action on Thursday 10th July. Here are some of the key extracts from the document. If you have further questions please speak to your local Unison rep or call the branch office

 Is our pay claim affordable?

Local government and school pay is now so poor that many workers have to rely on tax credits and benefits.  It makes far more sense to pay this money as wages.

 I don’t agree with the pay offer – but why strike action?

UNISON stands ready to enter further negotiations at any point, as do the other unions. However, the employers are in a very entrenched position and only strike action – or the threat of it – is likely to move them to make an improved offer.

 Will the strike make the employers change their mind?

We certainly hope so and would not ballot ask members to strike if we didn’t think so.  We are not a posturing or strike happy union —far from it.  Strike action has always been a last resort in trying to force employers to negotiate more seriously.  On the rare occasions that we have gone on strike across the local government sector in the past we have made gains on previous proposals.  Although there is never a guarantee of all our demands being met, demonstrating the strength of feeling about our pay is vital.

I can’t afford to strike. Money is so tight at the moment.

UNISON understands your concerns.  Council and school workers have already had to put up with a great deal. We are well aware there may be other very pressing difficulties you are being faced with right now on a local or personal level. But it’s important to think about what you could gain and the money you need in retirement to support yourself.

Any pay gained through an increased offer may or may not offset what you lose in the immediate term through strike reductions. However, it will be ‘paid back’ quite quickly because:

  • it means that the starting point for ANY future pay rise is higher than it would otherwise be;
  • the value of ANY future increment is higher than it would otherwise be;
  • the value of the pension pot accumulating is higher than it would otherwise be.

The employers are relying on workers and unions being too weak and too scared to put up enough of a fight against this attack on your pay. We have to show them that they are wrong. If we aren’t able to make them re-think their stance, the employers and government will continue to cut your pay and conditions and we may never be in a position to recover the ground we have lost.  Falling pay also means loss of pension, which could affect you for the rest of your life.

Am I breaking my contract by taking strike action?

Almost all effective industrial action is a breach of your contract of employment.  However, UNISON has carried out a lawful statutory ballot.  The law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the start of action and depending on the circumstances; dismissal may also be unfair if it takes place later.

My employer is saying that a one day strike would be seen as a break in service and that my continuity of service would be broken — is this true?

During a strike your continuous employment is treated as ‘postponed’.  This means that the period you were on strike for will not count towards your continuous employment, but it does not break the continuity of your period of employment.

Do I have to strike?

As a member of a democratic union we would hope that you would participate in a strike if there is a vote for strike action.  You cannot be forced to do so, but it is part of belonging to a democratic union in which decisions are made collectively.  We recognise that taking strike action is very serious, which is why UNISON asks you and every other member to observe the strike (if called.)  Every member who does not undermines our bargaining power and makes it harder for us to protect all our members.

 Will I still have to strike if I voted ‘No’?

 If the majority of the people balloted vote ‘yes’ and a strike is called, we would hope you would join your trade union colleagues by participating fully in the industrial action, in line with UNISON’s democratic decision-making process.

What should I do during a strike? Can I join a picket line?

When UNISON calls a strike we ask that you do not go to work, but instead contact your local representative and volunteer to help out on the picket lines.  This isn’t dangerous and it can be fun, as everyone shows that they are serious and united in taking action.

Do I have to tell my employer if I am going on strike?

No, if the day of action is confirmed in a ballot we will officially inform your employer and they should assume that all members will be striking.  It is up to them to ask for any exemptions and to provide emergency cover (see questions on exemptions and emergency cover).

Your employer might send you a formal sounding letter asking you to declare in advance whether you will be taking industrial action.  You are under no obligation to inform your employer in advance as to whether you will be taking part in strike action. UNISON is legally required to give employers some statistical information about UNISON members taking industrial action but we do not give individual names.

Will I receive strike pay for striking on 10 July?

Strike pay will not be paid but the union will seek to help members experiencing hardship. Your branch will be able to advise you.

I’m not a member yet – can I join now and still take part in the proposed action?

New members can join UNISON, and join the strike (provided that their employer is one of the employers involved in the ballot), right up to and including on the day of action.  So if this is the case, the answer is very much YES you can join the strike – you just need to fill in an application form first and hand it to your local steward.

PRESS RELEASE – Coventry UNISON responds with anger to news of Council Underspend – as staff to join national strike action over Local Government Pay

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The biggest trade union representing workers at Coventry City Council has reacted angrily to news that the council recorded an underspend of over £7 million during the last financial year.

Sarah Feeney, branch secretary of Coventry City Unison said

‘At a time when our members who provide vital public services are being told by the Council leadership that there will be more redundancies on the way and local services being cut, to hear that the Council underspent by £7.2 million is an act of injustice to our members and the people of this city. Money shouldn’t be put away for a rainy day when there is a deluge pouring down on us. Across the country council reserves have risen, surely this money should be used to defend services as demand for them continues to rise. It is sickening to think that our members are having to resort to strike action in an attempt to win a pay deal that would keep up with the cost of living, whilst money is stuffed away in the council coffers’.

Ends

Planned industrial action will take place on 10th July.

For details of the pay campaign and future events, visit the national Unison Campaign page via http://www.unison.org.uk/our-campaigns/unison-campaigns/worth-it/home/ or contact Coventry Unison via the above address or visit on the web via www.coventryunison.co.uk, our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/coventry.unison.

Follow @coventryunison on twitter.

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Message for Coventry City Council Staff

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UNISON will be on site at the following locations

16th June – Coventry Council House, 10am – 3pm

17th June – Civic Centre 4, 10am – 3pm

18th June – Whitley Depot, 10am – 3pm

19th June – Christchurch House, 10am – 3pm

20th June – Spire House, 10am – 3pm

There will be a stall with freebies for UNISON members and information for those thinking of joining.

Join on the day and be entered to win a holiday at Croyde Bay (UNISON’s holiday village)!

 

 

Local Government Pension Scheme Governance Changes

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New governance arrangements will be in place by 2015.  These include 50% of the pension board being pension scheme members – you!  

The changes are the result of the Hutton report identifying that the transparency of the current schemes is poor, resulting in schemes which do not perform as well as they could.

The current pension schemes vary widely in running costs – North Yorkshire £25 per person per annum, City of London £357 per person per annum.  The main reason for this difference is that investments are made in house in the North Yorkshire scheme.  In house investors are making decisions in the interest of scheme members, whereas private financial advisors are making decisions which maximise their fees.

The LGPS is a statutory scheme, but this does not mean your benefits are guaranteed; the law can be changed, funds can perform badly and governments can fail (Greece!).  Also, your money is invested without you having any say over how this is done – there is a risk you are being ripped off.

Investment returns have halved between 1996 and 2014.  When investment returns go down, the employer has to pay more, which may mean redundancies – not something UNISON members want!

Lots of funds are under pressure due to increasing number of redundancies, and decrease in investment returns and contributions.  In 2006-7 the LGPS had enough assets to pay all benefits for the next 20 years without any further contributions.  Now, it only has enough for 3 years.

The membership of pension fund committees and their voting rights varies, but generally scheme members have no say over how their money is used.  For the West Midlands Pension Fund, there are three TU reps that have no voting rights.  In 2006 when UNISON raised concerns over the running of funds it was told it was not their concern as the money belonged to the pension funds … they are talking about your pay!

UNISON has worked since 2006 for a legal separation between the fund sponsors and the fund board to ensure the interests of the members are protected.  The Department for Communities and Local Government has been forced to agree.

The Public Services Pension Scheme Act 2013 will implement this.  All local funds will have a pensions board with 50/50 member representation by 2015.

It is essential for the financial success of the funds that members participate in this change.  It’s their money, and if they don’t get involved they could get ripped off – that’s what was happening before.  There is a danger that their seats on the board will be stuffed with placeholders, particularly from members of CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants), whose interests are more allied to the fees to be made from managing riskier investment types.  GMB and Unite have not pursued this issue –  UNISON has.  Please contact Chris Burrow – 02476 521126 or email chris.burrow@coventryunison.co.uk for further info about how to get involved.