Coventry City UNISON has received a message from Heather Wakefield, National Secretary of the Union’s Local Government Service Group, asking for your opinions about the national pay offer. A summary of the message is below..
‘The UNISON NJC Committee agreed last January to submit the NJC pay claim for 2018/19 earlier this year, to make our pay aspirations clear to the Local Government Association (LGA), whilst the negotiations on a revised NJC pay spine take place.
The NJC pay spine review was spurred by the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) and the fact that around 200 councils have voluntarily adopted the Foundation Living Wage.
The UNISON NJC Committee met on Thursday 27 April 2017 to discuss the contents of the NJC pay claim for 2018/19. In considering the proposed claim for 2018/19, the NJC Committee took into account the following factors:
– The aspiration of all three unions to achieve the Foundation Living Wage at the lowest pay point
– The ongoing decline in our members’ pay – worse than for any other workforce in the public sector. Pay is lower compared to other public sector groups throughout the NJC pay spine
– Unprecedented cuts in local government funding and increased pressure on schools The immense pressure our members are under with ever increasing workloads, deteriorating terms and conditions and persistent job insecurity
– The compression at the lower end of the NJC pay spine, which is over-riding job evaluated differentials and the need to maintain the differentials which might emerge from the pay spine review
– The need for a simple claim which is easy for members to understand. It should be seen as realistic and have credibility with members Proposed Pay Claim 2018/19 In order to achieve these objectives, the Committee is proposing the following claim for 2018/19: 5% increase on all NJC pay points and deletion of NJC pay points scp 6-9 1
– Context of pay claim: The sector faces the phasing out of revenue support grant and reliance on business rates; unprecedented cuts to funding; implementation of the National Living Wage; an ongoing pay spine review to maintain pay differentials.
– The 5% increase on all NJC pay points is to reflect inflation and provide some catch-up on lost earnings. The deletion of pay points 6-9 after the 5% increase has been applied to ensure that no NJC pay points fall below the Foundation Living Wage rate of £8.45 per hour.
– Pay at the bottom: Linked to legal minimum and remaining below the real Living Wage. NJC continues to be one of the lowest pay rates in the public sector.
– Low pay: A problem throughout the pay spine with those above in the middle and top of the spine receiving scant reward and differentials being threatened following years of bottom loaded pay settlements.
– Terms and conditions: Savaged across the board and impacting on pay.
– Job losses: Employment in local government has fallen by over three quarters of a million since June 2010.
– Recruitment and retention problems: Developing as value of pay plummets.
– Inflation: RPI at 3.2% and CPI at 2.3%. RPI to average 3.5% over 2017 and remain over 3% to 2021.
– Average earnings: Predicted to be 2.6% in 2017 rising to 3.6% by 2021.
– Average pay settlements: 2% for private sector; 1% for public sector.
Branches are asked to carry out as wide a consultation as possible on the contents of the proposed claim and return their results to your Regional Head of Local Government by 12 noon on Friday 26 May 2017.
It is very important that the NJC Committee gets a view from as many branches as possible and that members are engaged at this stage in the claim. The UNISON NJC Committee will meet on 31 May 2017 to consider the results of the branch consultation and to agree UNISON’s proposals for the 2018/19 pay claim. In the meantime, GMB and Unite are also consulting their members on what they would like to see in the claim. The intention is for the Trade Union Side to agree the claim on Wednesday 14 June and to submit it to the Local Government Association (LGA) immediately afterwards.
The LGA has indicated that they intend to consult councils over our claim and principles under-pinning possible pay spine models in June/July and respond to our claim in early autumn. It is likely that any pay offer will incorporate the new pay spine.
Our claim and the pay spine review will both require funding beyond 1% and pose significant challenges to councils and schools under further economic siege by the Conservative government.
The Committee is therefore proposing:
– A major political campaign at local, regional and national levels to highlight the case for funding.
– To provide branches with questions to ask election candidates about local government funding and pay
– Draw up a campaign timetable to start after our claim is lodged to highlight the issues surrounding NJC pay and funding cuts in councils and schools Campaign details will follow’.
Coventry City UNISON is therefore asking all our members on Local Government pay to complete a brief Survey Monkey questionnaire by following the link here.
We will update you on the outcome of the pay consultation and further developments as soon as we receive further information.
Coventry City UNISON
Seven councils ‘revolt’ against £100m top-up payment for West Midlands Pension Fund
The West Midlands Pension Fund (WMPF) have asked the councils to pay an extra £100m this year because of the fund’s £2.8bn deficit.
The fund has more than 287,000 members working for about 520 employers. Local councils have seen their budgets cut heavily in recent years. Birmingham, which has been asked to contribute £65m of the £100m, has had to reduce its spending by £500m during the past six years and expects to have to cut another £250m by 2020. “The hard-pressed citizens and taxpayers in Birmingham should not be asked to find £65m a year to bail out investment fund managers,” said John Clancy, Labour council leader.
The WMPF spent £69.8m on managers in 2015/16, down from £81m the year before. It is budgeting £72.8m for 2016/17. The WMPF has returned 5.6 per cent annually during the past decade, beating the benchmark of 5 per cent. The retail price index has risen by an average of 3 per cent annually. Labour councillors for Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall are trustees of the WMPF but are poised to reject its professional advisers’ request for the £100m “top-up” fee.The WMPF noted that it had cut running investment costs by £11m in 2015/16 to £69.8m, 0.6 per cent of assets.
WMPF plans to pool resources with eight other funds to create the LGPS Central, which will have £65bn in assets. It should save £200m in annual costs by 2034.
Chris Burrow, Pensions Champion for Coventry City UNISON, said
‘Employer contributions to the pension scheme are deferred pay. They are not an optional part of membership of the scheme. They are part of the employees’ contractual terms and conditions. Central government underfunding of councils should not be used by the employer as an excuse for undermining the pension scheme. All pension schemes have been put under pressure this year due to low investment returns caused by recent instability in the financial markets. The schemes make investments for long-term returns, and short-term fluctuations do not provide evidence of pension funds underperforming or being unsustainable.
If the employers were concerned about the efficiency of the schemes, they could have identified these savings in running costs and influenced the pension schemes to act earlier if they had been so minded. UNISON’s success in getting members represented on pension boards has allowed greater transparency in the schemes’ running costs. Identifying ways of reducing these costs doesn’t absolve the employers’ from their responsibility of paying their employees’.
Over the next few days Coventry City Unison members on national terms & conditions will be receiving ballot papers regarding the current pay claim from April 16. The employers are offering us a paltry 2 per cent deal over 2 years (1 per cent per year). Bearing in mind that a report out today from the TUC shows that in the West Midlands average pay in real terms is worth £38 per week less compared to 2008 and when there is more stress and pressure in the work place UNISON feels this is not good enough.
There will be full information included in the covering letter with the consultative ballot paper. You will see that the recommendation from UNISON (and our colleagues in UNITE) is to reject the deal.
In a slight change to the norm, as well as being able to choose whether to accept or reject – those choosing rejection will also be able to tick up to 3 boxes. These are reject with – all out strike action, selective action, action short of a strike.
Your local reps would recommend the offer is rejected and all three boxes are ticked. This will give more strength to our negotiators to try and get a better deal.
Remember this is a consultative ballot, not an industrial action ballot. We need all members to respond whatever your view is so the national union can get an accurate picture of what we as members think.
** If you have recently changed address and/or would like to update email/phone contact details, please email our branch office – email@example.com so your records can be updated. This will allow us to keep you fully informed of what’s going on at Coventry City Council. **
As ever any comments or questions get in touch.
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.
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’.
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.
Why you need to vote ‘YES’ in the ballot
– Your pay is frozen while prices are going up all the time. This means a real-terms pay cut over the last 4 years of 16%
– You have less money to spend and may be struggling to make ends meet. Reliance on high interest loans and credit cards are putting pressure on workers families who are having to rely on welfare handouts
– You are doing more work for less money with more stress. This will continue unless we make a stand
– The number of working people using food banks in our City is a disgrace. Years of pay cuts are adding to the numbers
– Public services are being closed or cut. As waiting times increase the quality of the service falls. These are the services we all use so its vital we fight to protect them!
Your questions and answers about the ballot
Does voting ‘YES’ mean we immediately go on strike..?
No. A huge ‘YES’ vote will give our negotiators greater power to secure a fair and decent pay rise. Local government employers have treated our service area as the whipping boys for this governments austerity policies while slashing the services that working people and the most vulnerable require for a dignified existence. We need to use the right to strike if the employers continue to make us pay for financial crisis that local government workers had nothing to do with. Forcing our members into poverty is not the answer.
The government says there is ‘no money’ to pay more than 1%. Why are they wrong?
There is money for a pay rise, but the government chooses not to pay it. Councils across the country have increased their reserves to a staggering £19 billion and MP’s have just been awarded a pay increase of over 11%. A deficit busting £100 billion in tax remains ignored by the government which could stop the cuts programme in its tracks. Finally, the gap between the income of the top 10% and the bottom 10% has multiplied 14 times in the last 25 years. Still think there’s ‘no money’..?
What can I do to help the campaign? -Firstly, ask any non-members to join UNISON. Secondly, get involved yourself! – Become a rep in your workplace—or help us get the message out that local government workers deserve a fair and decent pay rise for the hard work they do. Get in contact with us if you would like a chat about what’s involved.
Please download our flyer here, put it on your notice board and distribute it to your workmates – Pay14-news update