The UNISON NJC Committee unanimously agreed on 29 February to reject the Local Government Employers’ zero ‘non-offer’ , refer the matter to ACAS for binding arbitration and embark on a high profile campaign , with a view to industrial action next year if the Employers fail to make a substantial pay offer.
Our colleagues in UNISON Scotland have also had their claim rejected and a pay freeze imposed. It was agreed that we should mount a joint campaign with them.
The NJC Committee felt that in the light of the ‘live’ ballot over pensions, it would not be appropriate to embark on an industrial action campaign this year.
The Committee also decided that we should write to all councils and ask them to pay the £250 promised by the Chancellor to those earning below £21,000 – a shocking 70% of NJC workers. Branches will receive further information
The Committee noted that NJC pay has fallen by 13% since the last pay award in April 2009 and is now worth a shocking 10% less than it was in 1996 as a result of below inflation and low pay awards and the pay freeze in the last two years. The Committee welcomed the ‘Living on the Edge’ research produced for UNISON by the New Policy Institute which highlights that many of our members are reliant on in-work benefits and are living below the official poverty line.
It was noted that a small number of employers have paid the £250 promised by the Chancellor in his 2010 budget and that some ‘opted –out councils’ have made small pay award this year.
The Trade Union Side met later on 29 February and endorsed UNISON’s proposals on arbitration and a major campaign. The Joint Secretaries are to meet shortly to discuss a detailed strategy.
A number of factors have thrown a spotlight on NJC pay for 2012-13 and highlighted the need to respond swiftly and strongly to the further worsening of our members’ pay and conditions. These factors are:
The Local Government Employers’ refusal to make a pay award for 2012-13 – the third year in which pay has been ‘frozen’
Their failure to pay the £250 promised by the Chancellor to those earning below £21,000
Their likely refusal to co-operate with a TU Side referral to ACAS for binding arbitration
The ‘Living on the Edge’ report, produced for UNISON by the New Policy Institute, which highlights the fact that the value of our members’ earnings is lower than in 1996
Attacks at local authority level on pay, pay progression and conditions, including Part 2 conditions
Failure of the Employers to commission the Technical Advisors’ report on car allowances for 2011-12
The Chancellor’s announcement of a further 1% limit on public sector pay awards in 2013 and 2014
The prospect of significant inflation levels over the next 12 months
Current average earnings increases nearing 3% elsewhere in the economy
The threat of Regional or local pay bargaining raised by the government
In addition to the failure of the Local Government Employers to make a pay award in the last three years, in 2010 they issued the ‘Reducing Workforce Costs’ document, seeking to undermine the status of the Green Book. They have indicated on a number of occasions that they would like to review Green Book conditions and have a revised, more ‘modern’ and less prescriptive collective agreement. In rejecting our claim this year, they asked us to consider whether we might be prepared to engage in discussions with this objective in return for a ‘modest’ pay increase next year. They have acknowledged that the current pay situation ‘cannot go on’.
In Scotland too the employers have rejected the SJC claim for 2011-12 with the same ‘genuine sympathy’ offered by the NJC employers and – like the NJC employers – have signalled their desire for wider discussions on pay, conditions and reform of the Scottish Scheme of Service. The SJC Steering Group is also meeting on 29 February to discuss its response.
In the light of the above, this paper proposes a high profile campaign on pay and conditions throughout 2012-13, with a view to achieving some pay increase for our members this year and building for industrial action in 2013 if there is no significant pay offer.
It is proposed that the campaign should, if possible, be co-ordinated with a parallel SJC campaign. Its objectives should be to:
Improve our members’ income this year
Lodge a complaint with ACAS for binding arbitration, as provided for in Paragraph 17 of the Constitution of the Green Book
Write to every local authority asking them to pay the promised £250 as a consolidated payment this year
Consider whether this approach should be extended to include a basic pay increase
Seek agreement at the NJC Trade Union Side for a joint approach
Raise awareness amongst the public and UNISON members
Bring the 3-year pay freeze, poverty pay and local attacks on pay and conditions in local government to public, press and media attention through high profile propaganda initiatives, the press, media and film
Raise awareness amongst UNISON members in local government of their poor pay and conditions compared to the rest of the public sector and many parts of the private sector
Highlight the public value of local government jobs and their undervaluing by councils and the Local Government Employers
Demonstrate the extent of low pay throughout the NJC pay scale and the ‘squeezed middle’ working for councils
Show the negative impact of the approach taken by government and the LG Employers on women and part-time workers
Expose the myths between the public-private and North-South pay divides and the benefits of local/Regional pay bargaining
Ensure that the campaign is set in the context of the need to save jobs and services and oppose outsourcing and further casualisation
Campaign for improvements
Mount a high profile campaign against poverty pay in local government and for the Living Wage as the bottom point of an improved pay scale and improved Green Book which compensates for the decline in NJC pay and conditions since 1996 – and more recent inflation
Build a cross-union dimension to the campaign
Commission further research (including via Manchester Business School) to support our campaign
Include activities to engage members and activists and to build their confidence, with a view to moving towards potential industrial action over pay and conditions in 2013-14
Keep a focus on the need for equal pay for work of equal value and ensure the completion and maintenance of Single Status through equality impact assessments and litigation where necessary
Mount a vigorous campaign for equal rights and fair treatment for part-time workers, those on ‘zero hours’ contracts and in other forms of vulnerable work
Explore a legal challenge to the LGE’s and councils’ attempts to undermine collective bargaining at NJC and local level
Work with the LGA Labour Group, other sympathetic councillors and the Shadow Front Bench team where possible to create support for a ‘new deal’ for NJC workers and allied groups from next year
Develop a cross-party Parliamentary Group to raise the profile of local government workers and services in Parliament
Actively ‘localise’ the campaign via Regional Local Government Committees
Utilise Regional/Provincial NJC Councils to promote our case
Action by the NJC Committee
The NJC Committee is asked to:
Discuss/amend and approve the paper
Agree to the immediate actions proposed – i.e. Asking employers to pay the £250 as a consolidated payment and the reference to ACAS
Consider whether the approach to employers should also include a claim for a basic pay increase this year
Agree to promote our agreed campaign at the NJC Trade Union Side