‘The number one priority – will be to break the 1% pay cap’

National delegate conference agrees to a raft of measures to push forward the campaign against the government’s pay cap and, with it, in-work poverty

“The number one priority of this union, in the next 12 months, will be to break the 1% pay cap.”

That was how national executive council member Gordon Mackey introduced a motion on pay and tackling in-work poverty at UNISON’s national delegate conference in Brighton this morning.

It was a pledge that was met by a roar of approval from around the packed auditorium.

Setting out the context to the executive’s motion, Mr Mackay said that “It’s not fair” to criticise the Conservative government.

Having said it was concerned about the “just-about-managing”, that government has overseen a change to where “they’re now not managing at all”.

It was, he said, a government that had “outperformed their venal, working-class hating predecessors” … “with more people than ever before in poverty even though they’re in work”.

But for Mr Mackay, hope is growing.

“Just two weeks ago, we were told this country would vite for an unfair Britain,” he noted.

But “12 days ago, this country said ‘no more’.”

Describing the past year as having been tough, he reminded delegates that “one group has always stayed with them – this union”.

And that union would be calling on the TUC to hold a mass demonstration in the coming months.

But demonstrations alone will not win, he warned.

“We recruit, we educate, we organise.” Such things “might not be sexy,” but they’re crucial.”

On taking industrial action under the restrictions of the Trade Union Act, Mr Mackay said, to loud applause, that he didn’t want to see UNISON having to break the law on industrial action, but wanted to see ballot turnouts of 70, 80 and 90%, in order to “stick it to” the government.

And his final challenge to delegates?

“Make sure I don’t come back to say this again next year!”

Conference instructed the executive to undertake a number of actions on the issue, including:

  • highlighting the impact of the public service pay cap on public service workers’ living standards;
  • campaigning against cuts to in-work benefits;
  • campaign for the Living Wage Foundation’s real living wage to be applied throughout the UK;
  • continue to promote RPI, not CPI, as the preferred method of measuring inflation.