Bargaining through austerity

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2013 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2013
Carried as Amended

We are faced with the most severe economic and political challenges for a decade. The changes being introduced into the world of work and the wholesale privatisation of public services are having a severe impact. UNISON needs to have a clear and effective bargaining agenda that challenges the worst aspects of employment trends, and protects terms and conditions of employment, both for members where we organise in both the public and private sector.

The Coalition government’s slash and burn response to the economic crisis, and their austerity measures have resulted in drastic financial cuts to the public sector. Public sector employers are being forced to make radical cost savings. It is no surprise that the first attacks being made are to pay, and terms and conditions of employment.

Employers are looking to meet the financial constraints by introducing measures that diminish job security, create a flexible labour market that removes long held employment protection, and more insecure and vulnerable employment practices across our membership. Aligned with this is a push into arms length organisations that employ staff on reduced terms and conditions, or push members into the private sector, where again terms and conditions are cut.

There is a growth in the use of zero hours contracts, sometimes known as permanent variable contracts, which mean that employers do not have to provide specific hours or days of work to staff, or specific work location. The legal implications are very serious especially in terms of maternity rights, national insurance, redundancy, holiday and sickness rights. Employers are using this as a means of avoiding their responsibilities including pensions. The reality of these contracts is that staff :

1)have no guarantee of earned income;

2)have difficulties in arranging dependent care due to uncertainty;

3)face increases in travel costs if they have no designated work location;

4)may lose training opportunities;

5)face the erosion of terms and conditions of employment;

6)threaten equality at work;

7)social care provision both for service providers and service users are under threat;

8)face threats to their work life balance;

9)the potential for bullying and victimisation at work by withholding hours increases.

These developments in eroding employment protection and workers’ rights, make it even more imperative that UNISON is seen as the leading champion of the Living Wage campaign. Low paid workers who are forced to increase their income through in work state benefits are being demonised as benefit scroungers; young people who refuse to work for no pay are being castigated as work shy. It is imperative that UNISON fights to defend those most vulnerable in our society from the excess of abuse imposed by a government with no compassion or understanding of the reality of life for those on low pay or no pay. Low pay blights the lives of decent hardworking people who deserve better.

Too many people are faced with being unable to find permanent employment and are being forced to move from one temporary low paid insecure job to another that deprive them of employment rights and financial security.

UNISON was the leading voice of opposition when Chancellor George Osborne sought to promote regional pay. We can rightly say that UNISON won the first battle, but the issue has certainly not gone away. UNISON is the leading voice speaking up for hard working families in this country who deserve better; for the youth unemployed who are being deprived of a start in life; for our communities and families that are seeing vital services cut or lost; giving a voice to the most vulnerable in our society.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to campaign:

a)for an end to low pay in the public sector;

b)build our campaign for a Living Wage;

c)against the increasing trends in a flexible labour market that increases job insecurity, deprives workers of employment protection including zero hours contracts and permanent variable contracts that give no guarantee of hours or pay;

d)against the introduction of regional pay;

e)to link changes in employment trends to our alternative economic strategy for growth and jobs.