No to Bargain Basement Terms and Conditions!

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2013

Conference notes the shocking findings in UNISON’s late 2012 survey of cuts to NJC terms and conditions:

1) 20% councils have frozen increments

2) 8% of councils have cut basic pay

3) 13% of councils have introduced unpaid leave

4) Over 60% of councils have cut weekend enhancements

5) 31% of councils have cut redundancy pay

6) Almost half of councils have ended NJC car allowances

Since the Coalition took power, there have been 260,000 redundancies and many frozen posts. Those workers who survive the jobs cull are facing massive and continuing attacks on their pay and conditions, while doing the work of those made redundant. Black workers appear to be disproportionately affected by redundancies in some councils. The workforce is under enormous strain as evidenced by the 15,000 respondents to UNISON’s NJC Pay Matters survey in February. 87% of respondents reported increased workload and pressure, while 70% said staff numbers in their workplace have decreased. 26% had experienced a cut in basic pay and 29% a cut in overtime. Unsurprisingly 86% reported increased stress levels.

UNISON branches in Scotland have identified similar issues: the workforce is shrinking due to cuts while demand for services is booming. This creates increased workload pressures leading to higher stress levels for staff trying to deliver quality services. Meanwhile pay has been frozen for the past two years, but workers have suffered a real term pay cut for several years.

Conference congratulates those branches and Regions which have taken action and negotiated to defeat or mitigate cuts and urges negotiators to continue to use the Service Group’s bargaining advice and the equality impact process to challenge employers. Conference welcomes the agreement between the new Labour Administration of Southampton City Council and UNISON / Unite to a phased restoration of 5% wage cuts imposed by the previous Conservative Administration. Conference welcomes that first the majority of the pay cuts in Southampton were restored by April 2013, with further restoration taking place in April 2014. The successful restoration of pay cuts in Southampton demonstrates that industrial action linked to political and legal action can defeat pay cuts.

Conference further expects that some employers will press to reduce NJC Part 2 sick leave and car allowances at local authority level and calls on the Service Group to provide all possible assistance to help branches and Regions resist such cuts.

Conference notes with concern the growing number of Local Authorities that are considering withdrawing from the NJC. Conference believes that if the NJC is replaced with either Regional or Local pay bargaining this is likely to result in the further erosion of pay, terms and conditions for thousands of Local Government workers. Conference recognises that achieving a high density of Trade Union membership is vital in maintaining a National bargaining mechanism.

Conference also agrees that we need to ensure that pay restraint, cuts to terms and conditions and local implementation of a Living Wage are not used by employers as an excuse to break away from sector-wide pay bargaining through the NJC in local government. Regional or local pay bargaining will only help to drive down pay and make co-ordinated future industrial action across England, Wales and Northern Ireland almost impossible to achieve.

Conference therefore reaffirms its commitment to the retention of sector- wide pay bargaining and calls on the Service Group Executive to:

a) Promote the benefits of maintaining sector-wide bargaining

b) Highlight the dangers of Regional and Local pay bargaining

c) Continue to promote the need for recruitment to increase member density within the core employers

d) Produce further bargaining advice and campaign materials to support branches in local disputes and campaigns to protect pay and conditions

e) Press the Labour Groups and sympathetic councillors within the Local Government Associations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to end the fragmentation of bargaining across local government and re-affirm support to genuine sector-wide bargaining through the NJC

f) Continue to monitor redundancies and cuts to pay and conditions and develop a high profile press and media campaign to raise public awareness

g) Support branches taking lawful industrial action within UNISON rules against cuts to pay and conditions