Regional Cost of Living Supplement

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2003 National Delegate Conference
17 February 2003

National Delegate Conference reaffirms UNISON’s support for equity of access to high quality public services for all citizens. In particular we oppose any postcode lottery in service provision, which systematically disadvantages citizens in particular geographical areas.

Likewise UNISON must oppose any postcode lottery in the living standards of public servants in general and UNISON members in particular.

Conference believes that a framework of national pay bargaining on the basis of adequate funding of public services out of general taxation provides the basis upon which pay equity for public servants across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom can generally best be achieved.

However, Conference recognises that regional and local variations in the cost of living justify additional supplementary payments in some areas. We believe that these should generally be flat rate payments as the additional costs of living in some cities and regions apply to all workers across the board.

Conference considers it essential that such cost of living supplements adequately reflect the higher cost of living in the region or city to which they apply. Where this is not the case, or where justifiable cost of living supplements are not being paid, then workers employed in that area enjoy a lower standard of living than that implied by nationally agreed pay and conditions of service. This represents a hidden subsidy to public services which is paid by our members, the burden of which falls with particular force upon the low paid.

Conference therefore applauds claims which have been submitted for increases in London weighting in local government and higher education, and claims for weighting payments elsewhere in the South East. Conference congratulates UNISON members in London local government and higher education branches who have taken strike action in 2002 and 2003 in pursuit of increases in London weighting.

We note that the action taken by our members has put the issue of London weighting firmly on the political agenda. The case for a substantial increase in London weighting has now been recognised by the Greater London Authority, the Mayor of London, the Greater London Labour Party and the employers group London First.

Conference recognises that these disputes are vital to the living standards of tens of thousands of UNISON members, and that the outcome of these disputes will have ramifications for many more of our members, and other trade unionists. Fair rates of London weighting and other appropriate regional cost of living supplements will also benefit the quality of public services, as inadequate payments contribute to high vacancy levels and massive staff turnover.

Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council, working with the appropriate regional councils and service group executives to provide the fullest support practicable to attempt to secure the establishment of, or fair increases in, London weighting or other regional costs of living payments, as an adjunct to national pay bargaining, and in particular to:

1)call upon the Government to provide adequate additional resources for public services in areas with a high cost of living, raising this point in all appropriate dealings with ministers;

2)support service groups in issuing advice and guidance to regions and branches on the formulation and submission of claims for regional or local cost of living supplements, where this has not already been done;

3)seek to ensure that UNISON at every level devotes sufficient resources, including from national funds, to support effective strike action where necessary to pursue the objectives of this motion in accordance with UNISON rules;

4)ensure that the principles of this motion, and the particular disputes which are and may in future be taking place are well publicised to UNISON members through U magazine and UNISON Focus;

5)seek the maximum unity with other trade unions in supporting the pursuit of claims in line with the objectives of this motion, without sacrificing UNISON’s right and ability to take action in accordance with our rules should others not do so;

6)request UNISON Labour Link to pursue this issue within the Labour Party, in particular seeking support from Members of Parliament and Constituency Labour Parties outside the affected areas;

7)request the General Political Fund Committee to fund appropriate national, regional and local publicity around UNISON’s support for fair London, regional and local cost of living supplements.