UNISON’s twin campaigns on pay are making a difference in the struggle for better deals for its members, Brighton delegates heard yesterday.
In particular, the Worth It campaign and the campaign for a living wage are sending the message to young members that they are “the lifeblood of the union” whose futures are being fought for tooth and nail.
An impassioned pay debate also underlined the union’s commitment, if need be, to fight for pay with industrial action in the coming months.
The NEC’s Jane Carolan told delegates that the government, as well as sections of the media, were living in a “parallel universe”.
Ms Carolan said: “They are talking about the green shoots of recovery in our economy, but I have not seen these green shoots at all in the real world. With stand-still wages, people are still getting poorer.
“They say that there is a rise in employment, but it is very dubious employment, with many people on zero hours contracts and feeling very insecure. And there are more than five million people earning less than the living wage, including one in three women.”
The attack on terms and conditions was increasing, as was the deskilling of the public sector workforce, she added.
Andrew Anderson of the national young members forum said that the Worth It campaign had struck “a real chord” with young members, praising the creation of an umbrella campaign for all of the union’s pay disputes.
Mr Anderson, UNISON’s nominee for the TUC Congress Award for Youth, said of the living wage campaign: “The living wage does not discriminate on grounds of age in the way that the minimum wage does. The idea that a group of people doing the same work can be paid different levels depending on their age is a nonsense enshrined in law.”
Conference heard from various delegates whose branches had recently won the living wage in their workplaces.
Delegates reaffirmed UNISON’s demand for an end to the discrimination of young workers, “allowing employers to pay lower rates of pay based on age alone”. And they agreed that the union should encourage young members locally to develop their own campaigning initiatives on both campaigns.
They also voted to support the union’s sector-based activity around pay, in particular to ensure support where members democratically decide on lawful industrial action.
Ms Carolan told delegates: “We have decided to fight, to challenge the contempt shown to us by government. We need to start mobilizing.”