Regional Cost of Living Weightings

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2004 National Delegate Conference
24 June 2004

Conference recognises the high cost of living in London and the surrounding area.

Conference notes:

1)according to the Land Registry the average price of a home in the south east region was £205,109 by the end of 2003, and the average price of a terraced house was £157,659. In Oxford the average home was £245,732 which was higher than in 23 of 33 London boroughs. The Oxford terraced house average was £223,910;

2)whereas London weightings are generally applied within Greater London the picture on pay supplements outside the boundary is complex and contains many anomalies;

3)in the private sector employers use a range of zonal, banded and roseland (rest of the south east) pay supplements beyond London;

4)in the public sector there has been an expansion of pay supplements in southeastern England as far west as Avon and north to Northamptonshire. Prison staffs get substantial allowances at institutions outside London as far from the capital as Winchester and Lewes. But this expansion has happened in an incoherent way that leaves many inconsistencies and unfairness;

5)fringe area allowances outside London have been long established in many services and these have come under pressure for substantial uprating from, for example, teachers’ unions;

6)since 2001 police officers in forces bordering the metropolitan area (Essex, Herts, Surrey, Kent and Thames Valley) have received a £2000 per year allowance but police support staff organised by UNISON have not. Police officers in a further band of forces (Hants, Beds and Sussex) qualify for a £1000 allowance but again support staff receive nothing;

7)in local authorities fringe area allowances outside Greater London are paid in Surrey, and parts of Bucks, Berks, Essex, Herts, Kent and Crawley in Sussex. The system has not been reviewed since 1974 and no longer reflects the geographical extent of the high cost area. Local authorities commonly deal with recruitment and retention by resort to market supplements but these are typically paid to higher graded staff that adds to gender discrimination;

8)in the NHS cost of living supplements have been paid to qualified nurses and other medical professionals, such as physiotherapists, throughout southeastern and southern England since 2001. As an example of gross unfairness lower paid NHS staff have not had any cost of living allowances. Under the Agenda for Change proposals NHS trusts will have freedom to pay supplements more widely to their staffs;

9)in the civil service allowances in the south east have proliferated. For example in the Department of Work and Pensions Outer London Allowance covers a wide swathe of southeastern England. Other areas, such as Oxfordshire, are designated as specified local pay zones where pay is augmented by upwards of £1500 per annum;

10)within the trend of expansion of pay allowances outside London there is a sub-theme of lower paid staff, often organised by UNISON, missing out;

11)UNISON’s Police Service Group and the South East Local Government Service Group have lodged claims with the employers to widen out the area qualifying for cost of living allowances in order to defend the standard of living of members and their families.

Conference recognises the need to develop a strategy that addresses the problems faced by members that work in high costs areas that:

a)Does not weaken or fragment national bargaining structures;

b)Does not undermine equal pay, UNISON’s top bargaining priority;

c)Strengthens the union;

d)Includes the development of active campaigning on issues like increasing the supply of affordable housing and investing in cheaper public transport and providing assistance with travel costs;

e)Recognises that this is a problem faced by staff working right across the

employment spectrum and not jus so-called key workers or hard to recruit staff, and that the fairest way of compensating workers is through flat rate payments.

Conference agrees to:

i)support regional and local pay initiatives within the framework of national pay agreements, ensuring that the integrity of existing national bargaining arrangements is not undermined;

ii)ensure that supplements paid to reflect local cost of living are transparent, equal pay proofed and kept under review;

iii)endorse that cost of living supplements should be a flat rate that proportionally benefits the low paid and contributes to lessening the gender gap;

iv)endorse the system of cost of living weightings or supplements, such as the London and fringe area weighting system, as part of national collective bargaining, as a way of defending living standards in high costs areas;

v)carry out more detailed work on general recruitment and retention problems in the public services associated with high cost of living areas, and the range of non-pay initiatives that could be pursued to address these;

vi)where there is a dispute which results in industrial action all efforts are made to unite across regions and service groups so as to ensure maximum effect;

vii)raise with employers the problems with housing assistance schemes and lobby government to legislate against right to buy of council housing, as this is worsening the problem;

viii)link the issue of regional pay supplements with low pay.