Breakthrough? Give us a break!

Here’s the take of a new UNISON EC member from Oxford on the revised Local Government pay offer.  

As reported yesterday on the UNISON website, our philanthropic employers have increased their 2% offer to 2.475% for most of us. For the very lowest paid workers in local government (who currently earn £5.80 an hour) the offer is 3.4% to bring them up to £6.00 an hour.

The total package puts 2.5% on the pay bill which is, by a startling coincidence, exactly the amount the employers advised Local Authorities to budget for.

UNISON’s website quotes Heather Wakefield as saying “This is a welcome breakthrough for the lowest paid”.

Now, having just this month been involved in tricky negotiations with my own employers, I know that negotiations are rarely easy. In the words of Mick Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want.” I am sure that these negotiations have been more frustrating than most and the employers have been especially bloody minded and unhelpful throughout.

It is very difficult for our negotiators to tell us exactly what they think, not least because they will have to go through the whole palaver again, with the same people, in a few months’ time.

But even 3.4% is still a pay cut in real terms (inflation is currently 3.8%) and I don’t think that full timers currently earning £214.60 a week gross should be expected to welcome a pay cut.

And for the rest of us? Earning more than £6.00 an hour doesn’t make a pay cut any more palatable.

So, while I do genuinely think our negotiators have done a good job, I also think it is patently obvious that we are not going to get a reasonable pay deal through negotiations alone. It has now taken over 6 months (from the time we submitted our pay claim) to get the 2.5% that we knew they’d planned to offer us all along.

We need to press ahead with an industrial action ballot as soon as possible.

Activists must keep members informed to ensure the massive support for industrial action that I believe is absolutely necessary if we are to secure a sensible pay settlement.

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