ANGER OVER low pay and anger at New Labour dominated this year's Unison union local government conference in Bournemouth on Monday of this week. Delegates passed a motion severely criticising the union's National Local Government Committee for submitting a pay claim of only 4 percent this year.
The motion accused the committee of trying to avoid industrial action in order not to embarrass Labour in the run-up to the 10 June elections. The motion was easily carried, despite bitter opposition from the executive. Further attempts to push the pay issue were blocked by bureaucratic manoeuvring. Unison's local government workers are currently discussing whether to accept or reject a pay offer of 9 percent spread over three years.
The debate forced the union executive to concede that the employers' offer was "lousy". Unison's United Left group is now organising a campaign to reject the offer and ballot for industrial action.
Schools agreement suspended
UNISON'S LOCAL government workers won another significant victory over their union executive on Monday. Delegates passed a motion calling on the union to suspend its involvement in the schools remodelling programme. This is the flagship of New Labour's "modernisation" drive in schools.
It aims to offload many teachers' responsibilities onto poorly paid teaching assistants. The National Union of Teachers is boycotting the scheme, denouncing it as "teaching on the cheap".
Unison narrowly voted to join the agreement last year. But some schools and local education authorities have used the agreement to drive down terms and conditions.
Chris Connolly, from Tower Hamlets Unison in east London, said, "It's good that we got this vote. Now we've got to make the executive listen."