Government attack on public service pay ‘a disgrace’

UNISON members continue the fight for fair pay and the real living wage

UNISON delegates have voiced their passionate commitment to continue campaigning against the government’s “punitive” public sector pay cap.

The union’s national delegate conference in Brighton this morning agreed that “it is now time to reverse the constant squeeze on members’ pay and living standards.”

The union also voted to fight for the real living wage across the UK, as set by the Living Wage Foundation – and opposed to the roundly condemned national living wage introduced by chancellor George Osborne.

The decade between 2010 and 2020 will be the worst decade of pay growth in almost a century.

The grim statistic, issued by the House of Commons Library, is being compounded by the government’s continuing austerity programme, which includes the 1% cap on annual public sector pay increases.

Introducing the motion on living standards, pay justice and the living wage, NEC member James Anthony told delegates that the government’s attack on pay, benefits and tax credits was “a disgrace”.

Average pay had fallen by 12% since 2010, totalling a real terms loss of £16,000, he said. For public service workers that sum was more than £21,000.

Mr Anthony said that UNISON members had not had “the appetite” for strike action over pay. He added that the union was reviewing its industrial action tactics in the light of the Trade Union Act.

David Owen of the Halton local government branch said that “a pattern” had developed whereby service group pay disputes ended after minimal or no industrial action, without the employer making concessions.

“We need a close look at how we use collective bargaining arrangements,” he said, proposing sectorial collective bargaining as one solution.

“We must show that we have the right strategies, so that members are confident we can deliver better pay. We need to inspire members to take the right action to win a fair deal.”

The NEC supported sectoral bargaining only where it was “appropriate” in particular areas.

A number of speakers said it was time to reject the Tories’ 1% cap as the “default position” in campaigning.

Sinead Liddy of the National Young Members’ Forum condemned the government’s national living wage, not just for ignoring the under-25s, but for its inadequate rate. “Living is not about scraping by,” she said.

“The government has stolen the clothes of the living wage and dressed themselves up as the saviours of the low paid.”

A separate motion noted the serious problems created by the government forcing councils to pay the national minimum wage, without increasing their budgets to do so.

Social care in particular is suffering the consequences, through budget cuts.

Delegates agreed to develop a national campaign to support the community and voluntary sector, raising awareness of the funding issues, which are “having a detrimental effect on workers, families and communities.”