Local government unions UNISON, UNITE and GMB representing 1.4 million workers said today that low paid council workers wages were being stripped down to minimum wage rates by the rising cost of living, cuts to terms and conditions, and now a pay freeze for a second year running – even for those on the lowest wages.
Over 100,000 council workers earn under £6.50 per hour, and despite the Chancellor’s promised £250 pay boost for those earning under £21,000 – these low paid workers will not get a penny more.
A survey* out today showed the average worker is £750 worse off due to the rising cost of living. Inflation is currently hitting 5.1%, but is climbing high on the basic essentials such food, travel and fuel that low paid workers spend most of their money on.
Many council workers are being hit by charges between £500-£700 a year to park at work, at the same time as car allowances are being cut to as low as 40 pence an hour. Councils are also freezing increments, cutting sick pay and annual leave.
Next year, pension’s payments could rise by 50%, which would see those on the lowest pay of £6.30 pay 56p per hour into their pension. To add insult to injury, heavy job losses means staff are working harder that ever - doing very much more for very much less under the Coalition government.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:
“A toxic cocktail of rising cost of living, cuts to terms and conditions, and now frozen pay means council workers are seeing their money vanish before their eyes. 70% of council workers earn less than £21,000 and it is a disgrace that even they will not get any help to make ends meet.
“This shows that the Chancellor’s promise of helping the low paid by giving them a modest £250 pay boost was a sham. This cannot go on indefinitely – council workers and their families are really struggling.”
Peter Allenson, Unite officer for Local Government, said: “Unite members will be furious at the employers’ response to our fully justified pay claim, submitted some time ago. Previous years pay freezes which actually are pay cuts, combined with cuts to terms and conditions at local level, and higher than expected inflation which eats away at their living standards, mean that local government really is the employer of last resort.
“This will re-bound on the employers though with people leaving when they have the chance. When treated like this, who can blame them?”
GMB National Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:
"GMB members will be sickened by the imposition of another year's pay freeze. These are some of the lowest paid and hardest working people - home helps, social workers, school dinner ladies, refuse collectors. With inflation still running high the 1.6 million council workers have now had a 10% real pay cut over the past 3 years leaving many of them in poverty. On top of huge job losses and attacks on their conditions and pensions, it is abject misery in local government while fat cat bankers still rake in the bonuses."
*Survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
That’s it! The National Delegate Conference and Local Government Conference are over for another year. Richard Pentin (Branch Chair) and I returned on Friday from a week in Manchester where we discussed and voted on many topics which will affect our organisation. A prominent factor in the proceedings was the attack on Local Government Pensions.
As promised I kept the web site up to date with as many tweets as I could. There they are on the right. This is the first time that we have done live tweets from an event and I think it went rather well. We had one mishap in which I referred to the Con Dem Government at the Con Dom Government but this was rectified with a little swift editing. Whoops!
The Con Dem Government seems intent on making us pay more and work longer for less. And it does seem that the unfortunate inevitability following both conferences is that we may be shortly entering the first stages of a national strike in an attempt to combat this. I realise that, in these hard times, strike action is difficult and costly for all our Members. Therefore I urge you all to consider the bigger picture. Yes, strike action will cost you a days pay. Yes, you will also lose a days worth of contributions to your pension. However, if we do not act now, and the Con Dem Government are successful in their pension cuts you will pay more contributions to your pension scheme, you will get less from it and your working life will be extended considerably. The job cuts and pay freezes which the Government wish to impose will also add to the burden.
The Tory press is attempting to divide workers in saying that greedy public sector workers are defending "gold plated" privileges. However the average public sector pension is £80 per week. Whether they are employed in the private or the public sector every worker has an interest in supporting this action. The Con Dems wish to make ordinary people pay for the financial crisis caused by the bankers. The banks have received £1.2 trillion of our money to bail them out. On top of this the bankers have paid themselves £46 billion pounds in bonuses since the bail out. This is enough to pay every state pensioner an extra £73 per week.
I call upon all Members to support Unison in its actions against the proposed cuts and further pledge my support as your Branch Secretary. If you experience any hardship as a result of the forthcoming strike action I will be, as always, a constant presence in the Unison office. Please feel free to come a discuss any issues you have and I will do my utmost to try to resolve them.
Some of you may be aware that strike action is taking place on the 30th June. Unison is not involved in this action so please attend work in the normal fashion
I now hold weekly surgeries from the Unison office. They take place every Wednesday between 9:30am - 12:30pm. If you need to speak to me regarding any issue please don't hesitate to give me a call, or email me, and I will book you in. If I am unable to provide a surgery on any week I will inform you all via Nedi's latest news. My contact details are below. Please feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions or queries. I will endeavour to return your call as soon as I can. Kind regards.
Unison Branch Secretary
Tel: 01246 217440
Mobile No: 07795 820923
Job cuts and runaway insecurity at work have led to a sharp upturn in workplace stress, a union survey has found. The poll for the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) found 1 in 5 workers report they are having to work harder as a result of job cuts in their workplace, with 1 in 7 in fear of losing their job. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of all workers feel more stressed now than a year ago, the survey found. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of TUCG member union PCS, commented: 'This survey reveals the rising levels of stress and insecurity in the workplace. With government plans for further cuts to jobs, pensions and pay on the horizon this situation is only going to deteriorate in the next 12 months.' Steve Gillan, general secretary of the prison officers' union POA said: 'This survey shows the real concerns of British workers as budget cuts come to fruition. These stress levels are a cause for concern. The cuts are deep and too quick, which will damage the confidence of workers not only in the public sector, but private sector. This health and safety survey will soon spark anger amongst workers very quickly.' And Bob Crow, general secretary of the transport union RMT said: 'This important research shows that a culture of fear is sweeping through Britain's workplaces as employers use the threat of the sack to demand longer hours for less money as the spectre of two and half million on the dole hangs over workers' heads.' He added: 'Bullying and harassment is rife and the first thing to take the hit is safe working practices as the ConDem cuts agenda threatens to turn the tide on gains on workers' rights and workplace safety that have been secured since the Second World War.' TUCG is made up of 10 national unions - BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, NUT, PCS, POA, RMT, UCU and URTU - and represents almost 1 million workers.
It was my pleasure to accept the position of North East Derbyshire Unison Branch Secretary at the AGM on the 22nd February.
May I take this opportunity to thank all who voted for me and assure you that I am making every effort to make all of the priorities, stipulated in my mandate, a reality.
Negotiations regarding the amount of time I am to spend as Secretary, on a weekly basis, are to come to a close this week. HR has been extremely helpful in these negotiations and I am sure that we will come to a decision soon.
Once my facilities time is decided upon I will be scheduling weekly surgeries and providing all members with instructions on how to access the new Unison calendar.
Recruitment of new members of the NEDDC Unison team is now in full swing. I have been extremely lucky so far in that a small number of staff have already stepped up. If you would like to join our growing number of reps and officers you will be more than welcome.
The Communications team have given our newly appointed Communications Officer full access to our Nedi page which is in the process of being updated. A link to this website will be on our Nedi page so watch this space.
May I take this opportunity to thank Pete Moxon’s Service Desk team for their sterling work so far. Since my appointment I have been in constant contact with Service Desk regarding a number of technical issues which will enable us to operate and communicate more effectively.They have done an outstanding job, as always.
Negotiations are also under way to organise a move to a bigger office for the Unison team where we can have multiple access points to the network and hold proper surgeries for Members.
Once all of the above logistical elements have been done and dusted the new Unison team will be in a strong position to provide firm, fair and professional support to all of its Members in an environment structured for that purpose.
I look forward to serving Unison and its Members in the capacity of Branch Secretary for the coming year and thank you for your continued support.
Unison Branch Secretary
Tel: 01246 217440
Mobile No: 07795 820923
This factsheet informs the union of the agreed industrial strategy in respect of the threats to UNISON members’ pension schemes. It includes a question and answer section and a timeline.
UNISON members who are affected by the government’s pension proposals are in a number of public sector pension schemes. There are very small numbers of members in the Teachers Pension Scheme and the Civil Service Pension Scheme. Primarily UNISON members are in:
—The Local Government Pension Scheme
—The National Health Service Pension Scheme.
UNISON members in these pension schemes face a number of threats from the government including:
Reductions in pension benefit increases
Benefit increases were changed by the government this April linking them for retired and deferred scheme members to the Consumer Price Index. This will cut pension benefit payments for public sector workers by £84bn over the next 15 years.
Which have been proposed by government as part of their cuts and austerity programme. This could see member contributions rising by 50% or more.
Scheme overhaul and new benefit systems
These changes have been proposed by the Independent Public Sector Pensions Commission (also called the Hutton Report).
Fair Deal for Pensions
This is a separate consultation established by the Tory-led government, which seeks to end the requirement to have a broadly equivalent pension provision if members are TUPE transferred out of the public sector.
Change to State Pension
This is a separate consultation that proposes just one flat rate State Pension incorporating the Basic State Pension and the Second State Pension and the phasing out of the Pension Credit. If it goes ahead it would mean increased national contributions and could result in lower levels of benefits being provided in pension schemes in the future. UNISON will respond in mid-June and talks with government, including ones through the TUC are likely to take place throughout the rest of the year.
Negotiations with government
Contributions increases, scheme overhaul and Fair Deal for Pensions are subject to a set of discussions with the government cabinet and treasury ministers Francis Maude and Danny Alexander. UNISON is working with the TUC and UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis chairs these negotiations. The deadline for these to finish is the end of June 2011.
The content and objective for these negotiations is to establish a set of key principles that will form the basis for separate sector discussions in the NHS and local government.
UNISON’s current position
UNISON will need to see the full details of the proposals before we can establish who we have a trade dispute with and the nature of it.
Pension schemes across the public sector are very different and the nature of how the pension contribution increases will be calculated and determined will vary across each scheme.
It would only be at this stage, if discussions break down, that UNISON will consider taking steps towards lawful industrial action to protect our members’ pensions.
To comply with legislation we have to demonstrate an accurate database and full ballot of members affected. This process takes some 17 weeks to complete and we must make sure that there is little room for the employers to challenge the ballot if we need one.
It is therefore highly unlikely that any attempt at industrial action will take place before autumn 2011.
We know that teacher and some civil service trade unions are aiming to take ballot for industrial action in June. It is likely that there will be a rolling programme of different trade unions taking action at different times as the issues become clearer.
There may be co-ordinated action through the TUC public services committee or through trade union staff sides in the LGPS or NHS but we will have to wait and see how all of these issues develop. UNISON will be supporting any lawful action taken by other public sector trade unions in defence of their pension schemes.
What is paramount is for the union to prepare for industrial action and part of that programme of work has already begun.
We have recruited over a 1,000 pension champions and contacts in the last six weeks.
We must ensure that members are involved and understand what is at stake. We must deliver a high turnout in any ballot and deliver a resounding "yes" vote for industrial action.
We must make every effort to recruit and organise non-members so that we make sure we have a solid dispute with little room for employers to break it.
We must push hard to make sure every affected UNISON branch has the necessary resources and training to build a network of pensions activists to help deliver a successful dispute. This is the key to making sure we repel the government’s attacks.