Sue plain, Branch Secretary of Southwark UNISON, addressed today’s General Branch Meeting on pay:
“This strike may define whether we are a trade union, or a work based advice giving charity. The pay claim UNISON has put in is really just a request to stand still financially.
We need to win over our colleague and fellow members who are wavering on this issue.
The pay claim slogan is £1 per hour. The employer is saying they cannot afford it. This is a myth. Nationally the coffers of local government have grown from 2.9billion to 19billion over the last 4 years so there is plenty of money available.
Furthermore the have substantially cut their wage bill and 400,000 public workers have been made redundant.
The employers wanted to tell us about the 2014/15 pay award in May even though it is due in local government workers’ pay in April! The union rejected this timescale and insisted that the offer be made in March.
This was a strategic move on part of the employers because they were warned that a low pay increase would be illegal – because the National Minimum Wage (NMW) increase that was due would make the lowest spinal points below this amount.
Austerity had been another reason given for four years of pay repression, but low paid workers spend a greater proportion of any increase straight away and in the local economy. Furthermore the government also benefits from increased tax and NI income which offsets any increase awarded.
It is no coincidence that the government has cut benefits to scare workers into accepting reduced terms and conditions.
The real debt is not the national debt, it is personal debt.
Local government workers are paid less than their equivalents in the police service, probation service, health and all other public services. Four years of pay suppression has only served to widen this gap.
We want the best staff and services in local government so it is our civic duty to fight for better pay to retain staff and attract the best talent.
Remember: A pay increase is for life – it is consolidated into you salary year on year and into your pension.”
[Sue plain, Branch Secretary of Southwark UNISON, National joint Council Member and standing for the SGE (Service Group Executive) in the forthcoming election.]