A busy afternoon in Liverpool saw local government delegates debate a wide range of motions, after watching a new UNISON film applauding our Local Service Champions.
Discussing apprentices doing the same work as other staff, but for lower pay, Mike Daniel for the national young members’ forum described how “someone fresh out of school failed to get an apprenticeship at Devon County Council, but then got a non-apprenticeship job at the full rate”.
That person had been himself. Apprenticeships, he said, were often simply “a deliberate way” to pay people less than the going rate for the job.
Sarah Walsh for the national young members’ forum called on delegates to take UNISON’s Apprenticeship Charter back to their branches.
In a motion on campaigning and pay, conference recognised the efforts made by sector committees and branches to push forward the union’s Pay up Now! campaign, including successfully breaking the government’s 1% pay cap.
But it is still vital to find and develop ways of increasing turnout in ballots.
Arthur Nicholls from the Scottish joint council said that the experience in Scotland was that
“building pressure on employers and the Scottish government, alongside building engagement and anger with our members” was the most effective way forward.
Jane Aitchison from South Lanarkshire noted how the branch had ‘smashed’ the 1% pay cap. Their campaign had included traditional methods and new ones – including such ‘small’ actions as getting members to send postcards”.
This helped to build a huge turnout in consultative ballot – an area in which the union so often struggle and which is particularly crucial given the legal thresholds for ballots in many areas of public services.
For the executive, Mark Ferguson said the union needs a “clear communications strategy that engages members throughout the campaign,” while traditional, face-to-face contact remains valuable and industrial strength remains key.
In a motion on safeguarding investments to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Eddie Redwood from Manchester branch says that “our economic systems – their economic systems – are broken.”
He talked of “community wealth building,” schemes that “repatriate money into local communities. We cannot control how we use the public purse” if the money is in the hands of private companies.
Delegates agreed that pension funds to be ethically invested.was also discussed.