Delegates to UNISON’s local government conference welcomed the decision of the union’s National Joint Council (NJC) committee’s decision to lodge the 2018 pay claim for England, Wales and Northern Ireland early, so hat the Local Government Association (LGA) what the situation is.
“We must be ready for industrial action if it’s needed”, said one speaker, while Caroline McDaid from Northern Ireland noted that the impact of Brexit on pay and the economy of Northern Ireland “has us all worried”.
Esther Wren from Hounslow reminded delegates of all the praise that has been heaped upon public service workers dealing with recent terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire, but added that “words don’t put food on the table.”
In order to win a fair pay deal, she said, to loud applause, “we will fight and fight and fight!”
Another delegate said that it was vital to build up a “head of steam amongst our members” in order to get the necessary support for any action on wages.
Edmond Jeffries (pictured) from the executive said that “more and more of our members face poverty pay, doing more for less”.
He noted that the union had to build political support and run a highly visible campaign in order to make an impact on pay, while a recruitment and retention strategy at “the heart of everything we do on pay”, that would “massively increase our density”, would also make a crucial contribution.
Politicians need to know “who we are, what we do and why we’re important” and a high-profile publicity campaign is vital to do this,” Mr Jeffries added.
“What are we going to do to change what we’re doing?” asked a delegate from Scotland, where a recent ballot for industrial action fell because the turnout was below the new law, and cited the success of the union’s 15-minute care makeover video as a an example of different but effective approaches.
Josie Harden, a social worker from Birmingham, pointed out that her employer is no longer allowing progression up grades.
“We need to take the passion about striking back to the workplace,” she said. “People are despondent.”
Conference called on the executive to:
- conduct an ongoing political campaign among councillors, MPs, the cabinet and shadow cabinet, to highlight poor NJC pay and conditions;
- conduct a high-profile press, social media and media campaign alongside the above;
- organise a coalition of local government and education bodies to support a call for the Department for Communities and Local Government select committee to hold an inquiry into NJC pay and conditions;
- create and distribute materials for branches and regions to be able to confidently raise the issue of NJC pay locally and to help in lobbying for funding.