Pay – Tackling In-Work Poverty

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2017 National Delegate Conference
20 February 2017
Carried as Amended

Conference notes research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in December 2016 which showed that a record 3.8 million people – one eighth of the workforce – are below the poverty line despite being in work.

This means that a shocking total of 7.4 million people, including 2.6 million children, are living in poverty despite being part of working households in the fourth largest economy in the world.

Conference is alarmed that, as a result of the government’s autumn statement, estimates suggest that the average public sector worker will be £3,700 worse off by 2021.

Conference further notes TUC analysis in January 2017 which found that household debt rose sharply over 2016, with weak wage growth leaving more families reliant on borrowing to support their living standards and also pay their energy bills.

More than this, Conference is appalled by the increasing need of public service staff to resort to using food banks to supplement what they are able to buy with their shrinking wage packet.

Conference believes this is a shameful indictment of successive governments’ pay policies and the ongoing damage being wreaked on the economy and workers by Tory austerity and tax credit cuts.

Six years of freezes and caps in public sector pay means that the median public sector wage is now more than £2,500 lower in real terms than it was in 2010.

Conference is angered that this is set to deteriorate further with the 1% pay cap set to remain until at least the end of this parliament in 2020.

In addition, Conference notes the 2016 national insurance rises and that government changes to exit payments mean that some UNISON members stand to lose out on the amounts of redundancy pay they may receive in future.

Conference believes that poor public service pay does not merely affect those delivering public services, but also impacts on the services themselves, with many staff resorting to agency work or leaving the public services altogether. A number of UNISON sectors, such as social care, planning and health, are experiencing growing problems with the recruitment and retention of staff.

Conference does however congratulate the many UNISON activists – along with their branches, regions and service groups – who have worked to achieve the real living wage for our members in recent years.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue campaigning for an end to the public sector pay cap and highlighting the consequent falling living standards for staff;

2)Campaign against cuts to in-work social security such as tax credits and Universal Credit;

3)Expose the wider impact that low pay is having on our public services, particularly in terms of recruitment and retention problems in key sectors;

4)Campaign for the Living Wage Foundation’s real living wage to be applied across the UK;

5)Where the real Living Wage is achieved, work with the TUC to highlight the campaign for a minimum hourly rate of £10 an hour;

6)Continue to promote RPI, not CPI, as the preferred measure of inflation;

7)Monitor new public sector apprentices and include them in collective bargaining so they do not start on the statutory minimum;

8)Continue to secure increases in holiday pay in line with European rulings;

9)Highlight the issue of “total pay”, to take into account wider issues such as pensions, grading, allowances and unsocial hours’ payments;

10)Continue to explore industrial action strategies in the face of the 2016 Trade Union Act and the possibility of coordinated action across UNISON sectors and service groups as well as across the public sector; and

11)Call on the TUC to organise a public sector pay lobby of Parliament in summer 2017.