A great October

UNISON members win in the courts and through industrial action

Thousands of UNISON members across the country are better off after they and their union chalked up various victories in October.

The month kicked off in fighting style, with traffic wardens – or civil enforcement officers to be technically correct – in the north London borough of Camden and care workers in Birmingham both embarking on strike action.

In London, the union members were striking for a pay rise. In Birmingham, they were defending their jobs and hours from council cuts which see some lose nearly two thirds of their income.

A two-day strike by hospital workers in Bolton, Lancashire, scored a clear victory for members who were being denied the Agenda for Change pay rise agreed for the NHS in England.

The facilities members were employed by a private company – iFM Bolton – which was owned, in its entirety, by the Bolton hospital trust.

When the company was set up last year, it said it would pay agreed NHS rate for the job under Agenda for Change terms, staff in Bolton would match workers in other hospitals doing the same jobs.

But when it came to delivering a pay rise this year, in the wake of the national three-year pay agreement, iFM management baulked and instead offered a lower pay rise, with the living wage as the lowest salary. That was £8.75 an hour, rather than the £8.93 of the new Agenda for Change scales.

Understandably, the members were angry. As Andrea Lee, a domestic at the Royal Bolton Hsopital said: “I’ve never had to go on strike before, but we’re all standing together and I’m not scared. We’re so upset with management.”

That “upset” translated into two solid days of action, and on the eve of a second, three-day strike later in the month, iFM changed its mind and agreed to pay the new Agenda for Change rates.

In Glasgow, 6,000 women took to the streets in the largest equal pay strike since the 1960s and the adoption of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

They were demanding that the city council come forward with proposals to settle up to 13,000 claims which date back to 2006 and which have been won in principle in Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session.

Talks on compensating the women got back on track after the successful strike, which attracted huge public support.

And the month ended off with an announcement by Greenwich council in south London that it would pay the money it owed to 5,000 women on term-time contracts whose holiday entitlement it had calculated wrongly for years.

The decision followed a years-long campaign by UNISON member Julia Stedman and a legal fight by the union.

The will mean hundreds of UNISON members, plus other workers, will get lump-sum compensation – hopefully just before Christmas.

Pay also topped the agenda at UNISON’s police and justice conference in Bournemouth, one of three union conferences in October where members in the police and justice service group, disabled members and retired members discussed and set their priorities for the next 12 months.