Unison local government members have voted for a tough stance on industrial action in the event of unsatisfactory pay offers, overturning the wishes of the union’s leadership.
At this week’s annual conference, they passed a motion from the Ealing, Greenwich and Hackney branches in London for any industrial action on pay to start no later than the April of the wage year, from 2009 onwards.
The motion was a reaction against last year when Unison ended up balloting for industrial action in October against a pay claim of 2.475% for 2007-8. In the event, Unison decided against a strike because only a narrow majority voted in favour.
An amendment from the union’s negotiating body, the national joint council, to delay any ballots until 1 April each year was defeated. The debate came with a strike ballot on this year’s 2.45% pay offer from council employers due to conclude this Friday (20 June).
Hackney branch member Brian Davis said: “When our members have to wait months and months and months before they are able to take action, they are less likely to strike. We don’t want any more prevarication, we want action.”
‘Things went badly wrong’
Service group executive member Mary Pearson conceded that in 2007 “things went badly wrong – negotiations dragged on far too long”. But beginning any strikes in April would not allow Unison to coordinate with other unions, she said.
However, Greenwich member Onay Kasab said: “The woeful lack of leadership last year condemned members to another year of having to check the change in their wallets before buying food.”
Opening the debate on pay, Unison’s head of local government, Heather Wakefield, attacked the government’s 2% pay target for the public sector, on which councils’ pay offer was based, with inflation topping 4%. She said: “Many of our members are having to resort to benefits just to keep their heads above water. This is one of the most significant pay battles we’ve had. It’s vital that we fight against the unfairness.”