UNISON’s new national executive council lost no time in outlining plans for a hot summer of campaigning when it held its first business meeting in London today.
General secretary Dave Prentis reminded the meeting that public services and public-service workers are in the limelight.
He noted “all the accounts on TV about how public service workers have suffered from a two-year pay freeze followed by five years of a 1% cap on pay increases – something which we’ve been telling people for years”.
But he pointed out that much of the current public debate frames the issue as one only about uniformed public-service workers, and fails to include many vital workers providing key public services.
UNISON’s autonomous service groups will run their own pay strategies in areas such as local government, health care, education and elsewhere, the general secretary said, but “we need a push across the whole union” to break the government’s pay cap policy.
“This we can do over the summer, with a campaign which is part political and part industrial,” he said.
“We will not waste summer waiting for Parliament to reassemble.”
Noting that there are divisions between government ministers over the pay caps and austerity, he asked: “ What better time to put pressure on that when you’ve got a split government?”
As well as a summer of political campaigning to put that pressure on, the NEC agreed a work to answer the question “how do we take effective industrial action” given the constraints of the new Trade Union Act and the numbers of members who have actively taken part in recent ballots?
“We’ve got to get our members to rise up,” declared Mr Prentis.
Noting the success of the weekend’s demonstration in London, the meeting agreed a strategy with three pillars:
- campaigning against the pay cap, running alongside the union’s Public Service Champions work;
- campaigning to save the NHS;
- campaigning against austerity.
The executive praised the UNISON members and other public service workers involved in responding to the attacks in Manchester, London Bridge, Borough Market and Finsbury Park as well as the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington.
It vowed to campaign for justice for those affected and support the UNISON members dealing with the aftermath and agreed a substantial donation to support survivors of the Kensington fire.
The best way to make sure it is most effective, and exact amount, will be agreed in consultaton with the local UNISON branch and community.
The NEC also agreed the initial membership of its strategic and functional committees, which immediately elected their chairs and vice chairs.
The meeting also elected members to the union’s two political fund national committees, overseeing the work of the general political fund and Labour link.