Sunday, 24 January 2010

Council Workers' Pay Freeze

Last week the Local Government Employers announced that they would not be offering any pay rise for council workers; effectively a pay cut.

The UNISON Active blog has
detailed analysis of the offer. Readers of this blog would do well to read this post on the UNISON Active blog to get a rounded view of the the offer and how it might be responded to.


  1. I have just read the "detailed analysis" of the pay freeze/pay cut and quite frankly, even though I class myself as far from stupid, I was somewhat baffled by the wordy approach the author has taken, it may be detailed but the detail is lost in the self indulgent waffling that surrounds it. I work with many unison members who would struggle to understand the complexity of such a piece of work and would give up after the first sentence. There is little point in encouraging members to read it if half of those that try to can't understand it. Even the tallest structure is built on strong foundations and if they crumble even the penthouse will fall.
    What we all want to know, in PLAIN ENGLISH please, is what Unison is going to do about yet another kick in the crotch of the local government worker. The vast majority of us pull out all the stops in times of crisis, we have struggled through redundancies and restructure, work longer and harder than ever yet we continue to suffer pathetic offers of pay rises that fall well below the "real" inflation rate and what have Unison done about them? It seems to me, and to many of my colleagues,to be precious little.
    I am not the only one who is begining to think that, unless we see some positive action by the union on this matter, my monthly subs to Unison are better off paying toward the ever increasing cost of filling my petrol tank so i can get to work.
    On a personal note it seems that my subs only ever go toward supporting those few that abuse their right to work by "chucking a sickie" whenever they want to and those who don't obey rules and expect to be rescued when they get caught out and disciplined.

    Come on Unison, instead of wasting time, effort and most importantly money on shirkers and spongers invest in those of us who can pull the country out of the crock of s**t it is currently sinking into. Lets see some positive action toward being recognised as worthy of a decent pay offer.

  2. I share this comrade’s view that the piece on UNISONActive is long and detailed, but it seems a bit harsh to call it “self indulgent waffling” in a paragraph that ends with a metaphor about tall structures, strong foundations and falling penthouses!

    Having reread this post several times I’m unsure what points the comrade is actually making about the substance of the issues raised in the article?

    I could say that many UNISON members I know would equally struggle to understand her/his point but I prefer to avoid airing public assumptions about the intelligence, reading ability or desire to consider complex issues of my colleague trade unionists (assuming, only, that this comrade is actually a UNISON member from the mention of monthly subs?).

    Maybe the detail of the point got lost in the self indulgent criticism and self righteous pub-landlord rhetoric?The only concrete suggestion the comrade makes is advising UNISON reps NOT to bother representing members in Sickness Monitoring Procedures or Disciplinary hearings.

    Call me a pedant but wouldn’t that be against the rules and potentially the law?

    And what has it got to do with a genuinely serious debate about a pay freeze affecting 1.4 million workers (all of them, not just the self anointed strongarms who can win a tug of war against a crock of s**t)?

    The Comrade also appears to be confusing UNISONActive – which is an activists' blog – with being an official policy and decision making body of the union (“what is UNISON going to do about it”, “come on UNISON”).

    The purpose of the article on UNISONActive seems to me to be about starting a debate amongst activists – and indeed “the members” – about how we respond to the pay freeze announced by the employers last week.

    That makes it necessary to raise the economic and political context we are in, to discuss how previous years may play into the mood of members (and the employers), to frame local government pay within the public finance agenda.

    The article highlights very positive research about the impact of public spending, including wages, on local economies. It offers a counter view to that being put out by the employers and the media about affordability.

    It makes a clear link between this pay freeze and the political decisions around Council Tax in a year that will see both local and general elections.

    Yes, it is long and does drift into the wordy, but extremely complex situations are hard to sum up in a few sentences and if we are to make informed decisions, as activists and members, then surely it’s better to start with ‘too much’ detail than too little?

    The article also offers various suggestions on things we can do as part of an immediate response and it clearly leans towards a very early consultation with the membership on whether they are prepared to take a form, or forms, of industrial action if needed to try and push the employers into making an offer.

    What it doesn’t do is try to prescribe what any action should be, pointing only to a previous link on the blog to action being planned in Ireland as an example.

    Personally I agree with the need to consult members early if there is still no offer by the time UNISON NJC Committee meets next week. In my view there is nothing to lose by doing that from where we are. And I believe, at this point, that unless members are willing to take industrial action then we are not going to get any offer, or we are not going to get progress on other issues or alternatives that are favourable to members.

    But whether I or other readers agree or disagree with all or parts of the article is not really the point, as it doesn’t set out to claim it has all the answers.

  3. continued from previous post.....

    Yes, I appreciate incisive leadership but I don’t subscribe to a view that it is for “the union” to tell me what ‘they’ are going to do about it. UNISON is a democratic trade union and we, as members and activists, are “the union”.

    It is not some other being. So we have a responsibility to ourselves and our colleagues to take part in debates and consultations on what we want our elected representatives to do on our behalf.

    If we haven’t got any ideas of our own then the very least we can do is ensure we make ourselves fully aware of the issues so that when we are asked our views we make informed decisions.

    The article in UNISONActive is nothing more than an attempt to help in that. It doesn’t tell us what to do or what to think, just sets out some things we may want do and some things we may want to think about.

    It’s a lot easier to be critical, dismissive and hide behind some notion of abstract leadership than it is to take the time to try and be constructive and to be responsible for ourselves. Maybe the kick in the crotch the Comrade refers to dislodged a couple of marbles.