LOCAL GOVERNMENT employers have put forward a new offer-but it is still awful. The dispute is extremely significant because it affects the pay and conditions of around 1.5 million workers. The previous offer was 7 percent over three years (equating to 2.3 percent a year). To make it even worse, the employers had attached punitive strings such as ending national premium rates.
The unions' threat of a ballot must have focused minds because the strings have largely been dropped and the money upped slightly. The employers are still insisting on a three-year deal and their 'final' offer is 2.75 percent in the first year, 2.95 percent in the second and 2.95 percent or the inflation rate in year three, whichever is the greater.
There is no guarantee that the year two deal would even be up to the inflation rate, so there is a real risk of a below inflation outcome-in other words, a pay cut. This is New Labour's insult to council workers. It means we will have had three years of rock bottom increases somewhere around the rate of inflation.
This comes on top of government/employer proposals to seriously erode our pension scheme and increase employee contributions. The three unions concerned-Unison, GMB and TGWU-should have decisively rejected this offer but will be consulting their members under a formula that neither recommends acceptance nor rejection.
In light of this abdication of leadership it will be down to branch organisation to counter any mood of resignation among members and rouse them for an industrial action campaign. Let's not lose sight of our reasonable claim:
The threat of a ballot has moved the employers once already. They fear our power. We should continue to argue for our original claim and for action to achieve it.
Martin Gregory, Unison South East representative on the NJC
A PACKED meeting of Newham Unison shop stewards and activists met last week to discuss a deal to end our long-running dispute with council bosses. The dispute centres on the council's attempts to derecognise our union and end facility time for our branch officers. They also wanted to stop us producing our own campaigning materials.
We have taken a total of four days of strike action to defend our union. People are very proud of the way they stood up to this New Labour run council in east London. The deal, brokered by Unison, was accepted after a lot of discussion. It offered us the right to have branch officers representing us and for shop stewards to have facility time. It also gave us back the right to produce our own publicity material.
Lots of people abstained from voting for the deal because they were still worried about the council's plans. They may have been right to be concerned. On Friday we heard the council might be pulling back from the deal we voted to accept. It seems that the council wants more concessions from the union but we don't want the union to throw away what we have fought for.
LIBRARY STAFF across Kent struck for a day on Tuesday of last week. Kent County Council wants to cut back on professional staff, downgrade others and put extra responsibility on the lowest paid without increasing their pay. In a ballot with a very high 76 percent turnout, 73 percent of staff voted to strike against this attack on the service. In Maidstone all the staff (except managers) were out-and picketing-including those not even in the union! Another one-day strike is planned for 29 June.