‘We’ll fight the public sector pay freeze’

UNISON makes plans to fight the public sector pay freeze and pays tribute to Dave Prentis at his final NEC meeting before retirement

Government plans for an ongoing public sector pay freeze will be the big issue affecting UNISON members and our public services, general secretary Dave Prentis told the national executive council (NEC) today.

“It is in the DNA of the Tory party to attack public service pay and public service provision,” he told the final meeting of the year via video. “We’ve seen it ever since Margaret Thatcher.”

He hit out at Tory efforts to divide and rule by setting private sector workers against their public service counterparts. “There’s no such thing as a private sector household or a public sector household – there are just households which often include both.

“Any job lost or pay frozen affects them all.”

And Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s promise of a £250 payment to low-paid workers was a repeat of George Osborne’s empty promise in 2010, he said. “Only 10% of our members actually received the payment.

“Don’t believe them – they are liars,” he declared.

As the health crisis gives way to an economic crisis, UNISON plans to engage its members in a major, unified campaign to break the pay freeze.

“People worried about their health and exhausted from fighting the virus are now worried for their livelihoods. We will work together with all TUC unions to fight this freeze.”

The COVID-19 pandemic had seen the union at its best, Mr Prentis told the NEC.

From representing members at work to campaigning, winning legal victories and our welfare services providing vital funds for members in need, the union had responded quickly to changing circumstances to support members.

In his final report to the NEC before his retirement at the end of the year, Mr Prentis said: “These are difficult times, but that’s what we came into being for. I have no doubt that UNISON is strong enough to take on the challenge.”

NEC colleagues paid moving tributes to the outgoing general secretary, before presenting him with life membership of the union, a gift, and a certificate showing that the union’s council chamber will be renamed in his honour to mark his contribution to supporting and developing the union’s lay leadership.

On behalf of the Labour Link committee, Gordon McKay said: “Dave, you’ve not had a career in UNISON, you’ve had a life. And it’s been a life dedicated to improving things for working people. We send you off with a lifetime of memories wrapped up in the love and trust of UNISON members.”

President Josie Bird said: “You empower others to take on leadership roles and I’ve learnt so much from you. You are going to be sorely missed and your successor will have big, big shoes to fill.”

The NEC also:

  • sent solidarity messages to members in dispute or who have recently won victories in Sandwell, Interserve in Carlisle, Hackney local government, We’re with You/Addaction, Woodchurch school in the Wirral, and Salford council
  • received an update on pay campaigning across all bargaining groups
  • agreed the processes and procedures for the 2021 NEC elections
  • heard an update on the campaign to save the Unionlearn fund
  • agreed the financial report for 2020 and budget for 2021
  • observed a moment of silence for members and colleagues lost in the recent period.