Cuts to Jobs, Pay and Services – A Strategy to Oppose that Puts Members First

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2010 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 May 2010

Conference is appalled by both the speed and the scale of cuts that have already taken place and the extent of cutbacks that are being built into future expenditure plans by local authorities across the UK. This includes unnecessary and damaging plans by all political parties to freeze or cut Council Tax, with disastrous implications for jobs and services and very little benefit to individual households.

Few would dispute that UNISON faces a massive challenge to defend jobs in local government and other sectors to maintain the level and quality of service provision to the communities we serve. The public sector is under attack from private companies promising to deliver the same for less; from politicians and employers using the economic climate as a smokescreen to slash budgets and agree spending cuts that are already leading to compulsory redundancies throughout the UK. This threat is set to worsen in 2010 and for the few years beyond.

Conference rejects the claims made by politicians that ‘Council Tax freezes’ are achieved by ‘cutting bureaucracy or waste’. The Local Government Service Group’s analysis of the consequences of ‘frozen’ council tax shows that it means service reductions, higher charges or reduced access to public services, reductions in our members’ pay and conditions and moves away from sector-wide bargaining.

Conference also rejects the notion that council tax reductions are beneficial to those on low incomes or those ‘in need’. The cost in additional charges or in securing private sector replacements for the council service that has been cut or removed invariably exceeds the small ‘saving’ in Council Tax.

Conference welcomes the alternative budget proposed by UNISON that highlights all the false economies of spending reductions and job cuts. This Conference also applauds the Million Voices Campaign that places proper investment in public services as a key priority for local authorities, exposing the myth that “excessive” public spending is responsible for the financial crisis, rather than the truth that reckless, under-regulated speculation in the financial sector and unsustainable lending to private interests caused the recession. Conference also deplores the manner in which public servants, who are victims of the recession, are being portrayed in the media as part of the problem and that their jobs must go to balance the books.

Conference notes that reducing the public sector deficit and cutting public spending will be a mainstay of economic policy throughout the life of the new Parliament and that Local Government will be in the front line with cuts and efficiency targets surpassing anything previously experienced. The impact will be job loss, attacks on pay and terms and conditions and an increased focus on commissioning, procurement and shared services. There is a real threat to thousands of our members who face redundancy, reorganisation and outsourcing and we have to respond strategically, collectively and now.

Conference welcomes the written guidance and Regional training for staff and activists on local government finance provided by the Local Government Service Group as a firm basis for further campaigning by branches and Regions against cuts and redundancies. UNISON has produced an excellent ‘Redundancy Guide’ that provides real, practical up-to-date advice on how to oppose the threat of job cuts and to best protect members interests where opposition is not successful.

This Conference agrees to:

1)Ensure job security remains a key priority whilst accepting the need to support those threatened with compulsory redundancy.

2)Further promote the existence of the Redundancy Guide and continue to up-date this as a strategy that can be used by all Branches and Regions.

3)Campaign for immediate increases in statutory redundancy pay and unemployment benefits to help maintain family incomes and demand.

4)Promote the economic legitimacy and benefits of a “redundancy freeze” in the public sector underpinned by UNISON’s alternative budget ‘We can afford a fairer society’.

5)Continue to campaign for well resourced, directly provided high quality local services and jobs through well-argued national and local campaigns

6)To continue to promote the million voices campaign promoting an alternative economic agenda and the positive role of public services and opposing cuts and privatisation

7)Continue to campaign against Council Tax cuts and ‘freezes’, cuts in local services, job losses and redundancies and attacks on our members’ terms and conditions

8)Develop further materials and training courses which enable branches and regions to understand and negotiate over councils’ budget plans and to develop alternatives to cuts and redundancies

9)Work with others to change the media-created negative perception of local government workers

10)Work with Policy and Public Affairs and others to influence the outcome of next Spending Review and promote fairer alternatives to the current Council Tax system and seek a guarantee that income and repayments from the nationalised banks is ringfenced to funding public services

11)Support Regions in developing strategies for tackling large-scale local authority budget reductions and popular community based movements that support democratically controlled, directly provided, quality local services and jobs

12)Provide timely and practical support for branches and Regions campaigning against cuts or job losses that oppose employer attempts to cut jobs for short term financial gain including, if necessary, rallies,marches and support for appropriate industrial action in accordance with UNISON’s rules and procedures.

13)Promote and advertise Branch successes for sharing experience – good practice will give other members confidence and may encourage more employers to adopt a more positive approach.

14)Develop a bargaining agenda which promotes a positive agenda for UNISON members, reflects the diversity of our membership and incorporates commitments to:

a)TU and workforce engagement in responding to spending cuts and efficiency targets

b)Learning and development, including career pathways

c)Health and wellbeing

d)Minimising job loss and avoiding compulsory redundancies

e)Maximising apprenticeships and training opportunities

f)Equalities and the application of EINA’s

g)A minimum wage for council employees

h)Review of commissioning and procurement policies with an emphasis on in-house services