Coventry Unison attends special conference of the union regarding pay dispute –

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Report by Paul Hunt, Coventry City Assistant Branch Secretary. 


Around 600 delegates gathered for a special conference of Unison to discuss the outcome of the 2014 pay campaign. This was only the 2nd time in the history of the union that a special conference had taken place – branches representing over 20 per cent of the membership in local government had called for the conference to discuss what was perceived by many to have been a disappointing end to the pay dispute which ended with the calling off of strike action in October last year.

 

Coventry branch was proud to support this conference as it is vital that branches and members from across the union can come together to discuss the way forward on pay and other issues. Your delegates from Coventry were Dawn Palmer-Ward (corporate rep), Emma Smith (steward in Environment and Housing Enforcement) and Paul Hunt (steward in Revenues and Benefits). In addition a number of branch officers attended as visitors.

 

Two sides in the debate

 

At the conference itself the debate essentially centred around two things, on the one hand a motion (from the leadership) that pretty much sought to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the situation that took place where we ended up calling off strike action in October for an offer that wasn’t even an offer (it was a proposal, and an indecent proposal at that).  It was pointed out to the leadership that suspending a strike on the basis of a non-offer was in fact against the union’s own rules.

 

On the other side motions were tabled that looked at drawing out the lessons of what happened. This included holding the leadership to account, improving ways of consulting with members and the need for the union to really start opposing austerity.

 

Also the need to have pay campaigns that more forcefully pursue our claim (rather than extremely isolated single days of industrial action with seemingly no strategy) and can start reversing the trend that has seen the real value of wages fall by around 20 per cent in the last 5 years.

 

The main points made by delegates

Delegate after delegate made points which are summarised below

 

– Unless we fight we will definitely lose.
– The interests of Unison members need to come first. This was in reference to the clear evidence (in the form of a letter from the LGA to the general secretary of Unison, if you would like to see a copy let us know) that sections of the leadership had been doing some backroom dealing with the Labour Party leadership of the Local Government Association (our employers) with regard to the pay claim to ensure there are no disputes during the run up to the election or after May so as not to embarrass Ed Miliband. Delegates were very angry about this to say the least.
– Reps need to be given clear and accurate information to forward to members
– Members need to be fully involved as possible with any decision to take any action, and also when and if to suspend action
– Members will always make the decision whether to take action or accept an offer (through ballot). However we expect our elected leaders and officials to actually lead, not back down at the first given opportunity
– The leadership should stop blaming members for the collapse of the pay campaign and take some responsibility.
– That we need to use the forthcoming elections to the leadership of Unison to make the union more aligned with the wishes of the membership

 When it came to the vote on the key motion, it was passed. 

 

 The way forward in the fight for decent pay

 

Conference voted that there will be ‘lay representation’ (i.e. people elected from the membership, rather than just paid employees of Unison) in any future negotiations with the employer, that more thorough ways of consulting members will be used (including use of electronic methods) and crucially that Unison would look to put in a supplementary pay claim for 2015/16 (the one accepted was for 2 years 2014-16). 

 

This is a summary of what happened but what can be concluded is that the conference  was a serious step forward in holding people to account over what happened in the Autumn and it showed the best of Unison – with likeminded branches (including Coventry) coming together to effect a change in direction of the union. Unison has massive potential and it is time we started using this potential before even more jobs go and our standard of living decreases further.

 

If anyone would like any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Coventry Unison urges – ‘Reject Pay Proposal’

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Coventry Unison Branch Executive met on Wednesday last week, to discuss the new proposal that has emerged from the national negotiations.

A national consultation process commenced on Thursday 16th October.  Stewards considered the proposal and decided to recommend that Unison members in Coventry reject the proposals on the basis that:

* The percentage rise on salary for members is well below the Unison claim for a living wage and a flat rate rise of £1 an hour.

* Members will see receive insignificant financial benefits which do not address the 20% loss in the value of their wages since 2010.

* The two year deal will prevent the union from campaigning for fair pay in 2015/16.

* We should be taking co-ordinated action with other unions.

Your stewards also agreed to support a call for a ‘Recall’ of the Local Government Conference so that member representatives can have a full debate about national pay, the implications of the outcome of national negotiations so far and what steps Unison should now take to defend our pay.

All members are strongly urged to take part in the ballot.  The branch will communicate the details of the proposal, and confirm how we will consult members asap.  It is likely this will include emails, meetings and postal shots.

Two meetings have been arranged at:

12.30 and 5pm, Thursday 23rd October, United Reform Church, Warwick Road.  This will be to discuss pay and the ER/VR negotiations.  Please make every effort to attend.

Visit www.unison.org.uk/news/have-your-say-local-government-members-urged or www.coventryunison.co.uk for further information.

URGENT PAY UPDATE – 1ST OCTOBER 2014

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Pay update 01.10.2014

You may have heard about or seen communications from UNISON and other trade unions over recent days regarding the current pay dispute. A proposal has been discussed but no formal offer has been made.

Coventry Unison agrees that the messages currently coming out from various sources appear to be contradictory and confusing which is why we want to update you of where we stand.

Where are the pay negotiations at the moment?

At this point, there is no firm offer as the LGA has not put the proposal to Councils. Therefore, as it stands, UNISON nationally is not in a position to consult members until a firm offer is made in writing that the employer has signed up to.

At a recent regional briefing, UNISON branches were informed that our sister unions may have a slightly different position to ourselves, however, we have a firm conference policy that says we cannot consult our members until we have a firm offer in writing. A proposal does not constitute an offer.

Is this proposal a better offer than the 1%?

At present this is only a proposal. However, there are a couple of things you need to bear in mind:

The lump sum for the 9 month period in 2014/15 amounts to less than 1 years back pay on the original 1% offer.

The proposed 2.2% on basic pay from 1 January 2015 is low and does nothing to compensate for years of pay cuts.

UNISON recognises the fact that the LGA have come forward with a proposal. However, they need to come forward with a firm offer before our members can decide to accept or reject. Some other things to reflect on:

UNISON members in local government have faced year upon year of pay cuts which needs to be addressed.

 Jobs losses and service cuts will mean more work for those left behind. Your pay needs to reflect the skilled work you do.

 Your pay has a direct affect on your pension which means negotiating a fair pay rise will have longer term implications on your finances.

UNISON believes there is sufficient money for a decent pay rise. Billions in council surpluses would meet a fair rise on their own.

So what happens now?

We are waiting for a firm offer to be received from the Local Government association (LGA).

*UNISON nationally will continue to build for the industrial action planned for 14 October.

At this point the strike will go ahead.

We will keep you informed of developments as soon as we have them.

Coventry UNISON