Around 400 delegates from across local government in Unison met last Saturday for the union’s first virtual sectoral conference since the start of the pandemic.
The sector has been decimated by over a decade of Tory cuts. Despite bearing the brunt of the crisis, workers are set to pay again now.
The government recently made a derisory 1.5 percent pay offer to local government workers in England.
The first motion discussed at the conference was on the future of local government.
It voted to oppose privatisation of services and to campaign to bring services back in house.
It also voted to better coordinate local disputes, to campaign for a proper funding settlement and to develop a clear industrial strategy to fight for better pay.
Conference also pledged its support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the face of government racism and to campaign for employers to develop action plans to be carbon net zero by 2030.
It also backed fully-funded comprehensive education, to equip workers to challenge online sexual harassment and for homeworking as a reasonable adjustment for disabled workers.
Conference also passed a motion condemning the campaign against reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and urging all branches to campaign for trans equality.
Unison was slow to adapt to the world of online organising during the pandemic.
The conference was the first to take place following the results of the executive elections, which saw the left win a commanding majority (see page 19).
PCS union votes to challenge pay freezes
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) held its annual conference last week. Around 900 delegates attended from the civil service, public bodies and outsourced staff.
Debates opened with Sarah Evans, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) branch chair and one of the leaders of their strike for Covid-19 safety.
Striking has massively grown the branch and DVLA is now the largest in PCS.
The conference reflected on many of the problems members face, including the effects of long Covid, unequal pay, discrimination and bullying at work—including by government ministers. Delegates supported defending the Working Time Directive that goes some way to protect workers.
Other debates supported pension justice and winning overpayments back.
Conference overwhelmingly voted to challenge the Tories’ pay freeze by building branches. And delegates also called to make local and national alliances with public sector unions for co-ordinated industrial action.
Delegates described how members’ confidence could be raised with joint fights with NHS pay campaigners.
They voted to support a £12 minimum wage and to fight compulsory redundancies.