Wages Councils in the Community and Voluntary Sector

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2014 Community Service Group Conference
9 November 2013
Carried as Amended

This conference notes the devastating impact that marketisation, public sector funding cuts, and welfare reform, have had on workers in the community and voluntary sector. Market mechanisms have led to a race to the bottom in terms and conditions in many parts of the sector, as employers undercut each other to win contracts.

The Government has to spend millions of pounds on tax and pension credits as well as housing benefit subsidising poverty pay Community employers.

The living wage campaign is an excellent initiative to create a higher “floor” for pay, but it only covers pay and not other conditions, and it does not directly affect those above the bottom pay rates.

This conference believes that

a) The power of unions to win better conditions for workers is maximised when we take a collective approach to bargaining.

b) Bargaining in the sector presents major challenges, because of the sheer number of small and medium-sized employers and fragmented workplaces. The local government NJC pay and conditions were once a benchmark, but are increasingly being seen as less relevant.

c) There are examples from elsewhere that may provide useful models, such as wages councils. Called “Joint Industrial Councils”, they were established in the 1920s and spread by the post-war labour government to 85% of UK workers. They brought together unions, employers and government and did not just cover wages, but also set other basic terms and conditions in different industries. Most were abolished by the Tories in 1993, but in leading economies such as Germany they still exist.

This conference calls on the Community Service Group Executive to:

i) Examine the potential benefits and problems that wages councils covering pay, pensions, sick leave, holidays, vocational training and other basic conditions for different groups of workers could bring to the community and voluntary sector.

ii) Include an analysis of equalities, especially to ensure the gains of equal pay are not put at risk.

iii) Include a risk analysis, to ensure that creating wages councils would not merely legitimise pay restraint.

iv) Include consideration of working with governance bodies and volunteer trustees/directors in Community employers, so that any work on Wages Councils takes account of and works with those with legal responsibility for Community organisations.

v) Examine a regional dimension, as a potential stepping stone to a national system, and with National Labour Link to consider possible support.

vi) Consult with other service groups regarding cross-service group workforce sectors.

vii) Circulate a report to branches and regions and ask them to discuss the practical implications of wages councils in the community and voluntary sector. This should be done in good time to allow discussion and motions to be submitted on this issue to Community Conference 2015.