Rebuilding Collective Bargaining

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2019 National Delegate Conference
20 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference believes that collective bargaining coverage is crucial to the well-being of employees. Where pay and conditions are determined only by market mechanisms, employer discretion and legal minimums, employees invariably do not get a fair deal at work.

Conference notes with concern that due to privatisation and outsourcing, a growing number of workers who deliver public services are not covered by existing collective bargaining and pay review body structures. Conference notes that where staff have been TUPE transferred to external employers, the European Court of Justice’s Alemo-Herron decision means that the new employer is not required to comply with dynamic changes to the transferred workers’ terms and conditions.

Conference supports the agenda to roll out sectoral collective bargaining developed by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) and adopted in the Labour Party’s 2017 general election manifesto.

Whilst acknowledging that setting the boundaries for sectors will be a thorny issue, and subject to appropriate consultation with unions and employers, the IER suggest that the priority should be to establish machinery in sectors in which it is in the public interest to protect vulnerable workers and ensure stability. The sectors it cites as fitting this category include: adult social care, childcare, delivery riders and drivers, hotels/catering, retail, agriculture, taxis/private hire and cleaning.

Conference notes that this approach is broadly in line with UNISON policy. Previous motions passed at National Delegate Conference commit the union to promoting sector level collective bargaining to cover workers in social care and school support roles, so as to maximise the scope of collective bargaining across fragmented, multi-employer public services. Conference has also supported putting national agreements into public procurement, a process also known as fair wage clauses.

Whilst Conference fully supports the ideas set out by Labour and the IER, it also notes that there is still work to do to assist in the further development of the sector bargaining proposals. The union does, for example, need to work through how sector bargaining should sit alongside existing national agreements and pay review body arrangements. It also needs to reflect and respect differences in the devolved nations and regions. In addition, UNISON needs to ensure that it is sector bargaining ready, with recruitment and organising strategies in place enabling us to maximise membership growth and workplace organisation.

In order to take this work forward Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Work with Service Group Liaison Committee to develop the union’s policy on sector bargaining, in conjunction with devolved nations and regions;

2)Make plans for a recruitment and organising project to ensure that sector level bargaining in priority public services areas of social care and childcare is backed up with effective on the ground organisation;

3)Work with the TUC, STUC, Wales TUC and ICTU to help ensure an appropriately co-ordinated approach that delivers the revival of collective bargaining across the economy that working people so desperately need to see;

4)Consider the equality impact of the proposals, particularly their ability to close the gender pay gap;

5)Consult EPSU and learn from the struggle to defend collective bargaining from attacks across Europe;

6)Work with Labour Link to ensure that the UNISON’s experience and viewpoint on the sectors in which we organise is properly reflected in Labour’s next manifesto and subsequent Labour government policy.