Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What was passed at Special Conference

The important vote was on Comp C - with 62% supporting on a card vote

Composite C A Decent Pay Increase For Local Government Members
(Motions 5 and 21)
Member and activist confidence in the relevance, integrity and mutuality of the NJC bargaining machinery on a „sector-wide‟ (cross-nation/whole nation) basis and UNISON‟s role within it is at an all-time low.
In light of all the above this Special Conference agrees it is imperative that proactive engagement, campaigning and negotiations on NJC pay are reinstated now if we are serious about seeking to secure a fair and decent real term pay rise for NJC workers.

This Special Conference instructs the UNISON National Joint Council (NJC) Committee:
1) To formally submit the following to the NJC Employer‟s body with immediate effect as an additional NJC Pay Claim for the 2015/16 pay round (to be implemented from the settlement date of 1 April 2015);
2) The full-time equivalent (FTE) Living Wage rate to be the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine;
3) An equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other NJC pay scale points.
4) To communicate our position to the other NJC Trade Unions;
5) To work with NJC branches and regions/nations to identify and submit, as soon as possible, equivalent local, regional or national pay claims as appropriate for groups of members who have previously transferred out of local government and are currently outside the NJC pay bargaining machinery or other collective bargaining arrangements that cover pay awards.
This Special Conference believes all these measures are necessary to ensure UNISON demonstrates to all Local Government members this union, with our members support, is prepared to take strike action to secure fair pay no matter which Government is elected in May 2015.
5 North West Region
21 Manchester Branch

But also others were passed including
Motion 1

1. Aftermath of the National Joint Council (NJC) 2014 Pay Campaign
This conference notes:
1) The profoundly disappointing outcome of the 2014 NJC pay dispute, which effectively resulted in another real terms pay cut for the vast majority of members across local government and left tens of thousands of the lowest paid on hourly rates still below the current Living Wage.
2) The employers‟ proposal that was the subject of members consultation after the NJC committee meeting on 09 October 2014 bore no resemblance to the original flat rate, £1 an hour joint trade union claim and was not an appreciable improvement on the March 2014 offer of 1% from the then Tory-run local government employers‟ body.
3) The suspension of industrial action squandered the opportunity to create a „united front‟ in October against public sector pay restraint with fellow UNISON members in the NHS and other trade unionists in the run-up to the TUC‟s 18 October national demonstrations.
4) The NJC „deal‟ also appears to preclude any industrial action over national pay for the first 11 months of the next Westminster Parliament at a time when the Tory-led coalition has categorically restated its determination to enforce public sector pay restraint as a central component of an ongoing draconian cuts programme.

5) The commitment to adhere to Tory-dictated spending limits and pay restraint stated repeatedly by Labour‟s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who has even refused to reverse the current Government‟s veto of the NHS Pay Review Body recommendation for 2014.
6) Votes to reject the employers‟ proposal and resume industrial action in a clear majority of branches that exercised their right to campaign for rejection of the proposal.
This conference believes:
a) The outcome of the dispute has further imperilled the future of the NJC as the forum for collective bargaining on pay and conditions.
b) The dispute itself proved an effective recruiting tool in many UNISON branches, but the outcome risks demoralising activists and jeopardising the prospects for effective resistance both to further erosion of real pay and the assorted other attacks being unleashed on the local government workforce generally.
c) The dispute lacked a credible industrial strategy, with no clear commitment to build on the broadly successful action on 10 July.
d) In future, there should never again be a suspension of planned industrial action accompanied by moves to consultation in the absence of confirmed offer from the employers‟ side as opposed to a „proposal‟.
e) Members‟ interests should never be subordinated to the union‟s relationship with the Labour Party, or indeed any other political party.
This conference resolves to call upon relevant national bodies (such as the Service Group Executive, the NJC Committee and National Executive Council) to:
i) Ensure far greater transparency around negotiations with the employers‟ side with the dates/times and venues of any talks shared in advance and a „headlines‟ report from meetings to be sent to NJC committee members and to branches within 24 hours.
ii) Ensure that where a decision has been made to pursue discontinuous industrial action that there is a clear commitment to and timetable for escalation of action from the outset of the action.
iii) Encourage branches to either establish or expand industrial action/hardship funds.
iv) Identify and act upon feasible means of reopening the 2014-16 NJC deal.

and amendment:

In numbered paragraph 3, add after "industrial action":
", was contrary to the spirit of the Industrial Action Ballot, when members voted in the knowledge that more than one day of strike action would be necessary to secure an acceptable settlement, and"

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Local government workers pay fight is back on

This brief statement has been initiated to begin a discussion on "where now?", by some of the delegagtes after todays conference. Please post below to add names to the statement, suggestions/ additions / proposals. Thanks Or email

Local government workers in Unison today overturned the leaderships sellout of the pay dispute. Unison Special Conference voted on motions to re-open this year's pay claim and passed the motions by between 62% and 68%. The motions called for a fight for the living wage and equivalent flat rate increase for all workers, in the run up to the general election and the first year of a new government.

The leadership of our union will now have to act on these motions.

It is crucial now that those branches central to this and the left launch a campaign to rebuild branch activity around pay. We have to learn the lessons from the northwest organising against the bureaucracy and coordinate branches without fear of leadership backlash. Now is the time to build a branch based rank and file of local government workers not just in Unison but with other unions too.

Marshajane Thompson (Havering Branch sec /london region delegate)

Ruth Cashman (chair Lambeth unison/ delegate)

Andrew Berry (Islington unison / disabled member delegate)

Tim Nelson (North Somerset delegate)

Ed Whitby (Newcastle unison convenor/delegate)

Vicky Perrin (NEC and delegate)

Glenn Kelly (Bromley branc  sec / delegate)

Sarah Feeney (West Midlands regional delegate)

all in a personal capacity obviously

Time wasting?

Today's conference was about allowing members and branches to hold leadership to account for a failed pay dispute.
30% of branches called this conference because members are angry and think unisons democratic structures are not working
So taking up 50 mins of conference time to allow extra 20 mins to read documents after the debate on that document had already happened is ridiculous 
That the chair didn't put this to a vote is an abuse of democracy
When members feel unisons democracy is letting them down, it is especially poor to continue to act undemocratly. Get back to the agenda!
a contribution from Ed Whitby delegate from Newcastle (pc) also included in the Worker's Liberty ( bulletin to todays conference

The defeat of the Local Government pay dispute and the NHS pay dispute have shown the current weakness of both the national leadership as well as branch and workplace organisation.

Today's special conference gives us an opportunity to connect a movement against the rotten pay deal with a positive plan to ensure we cannot be sold out again. The process of reforming the structures and behaviours of the national union has to be backed up with stronger branches, livelier and bigger branches, representative of the workers in the workplace. Where action is taken it should be to win, not as a token demonstration of anger.

Unfortunately much of what is needed has not made it through the prioritisation stage on to the conference floor. Given the extent of bureaucratisation in the union, in reality national committees and regional committees are the only ones who can confidently get motions on the agenda.

Nevertheless, some good proposals have made it onto the agenda. We should vote:

- to recognise that members were consulted on proposals and not an offer

- to bring back lay member control of our union's negotiations (and vote for all motions and amendments that seek to achieve this)

- for motions that propose a more transparent consultation process before making decisons to call off action

- to condemn the decision and leadership strategy that has negotiated a two-year deal which in practice offered little more than the present 1%  and tied us to not taking action in the run-up to the 2015 general  election and local elections.

Our starting point must always be supporting workers in struggle  against their bosses.

To build a movement capable of winning and popularising socialist ideas we have to fight for the control of disputes to be at the workplace level, with strike funds and strike committees, cross-union where relevant, that meet regularly to democratically decide how to push a dispute forward. We need to be creative and present a strategy that can include selective action and a strategy announced at the start of a dispute. To do this will require the left to put motions forward at conference and also to 
transform our branches and discuss these ideas with the people we work  with (not just those who are currently active).

Control at the workplace level will require fighting for such policies regionally and nationally. If we can connect branches across the country and develop cross-union local disputes we will be much better placed to win, create new activists, and break down the divide between union  members’ local and national union structures.

What is not on the agenda or might not be reached is more discussion on strategy that can win. This would include both national and branch funds - a war chest that shows we are serious about taking more than 3 days of action. Regarding timing of pay negotiations and disputes, by not even 
balloting on the employers' offer after it is due, we are asking our lowest  paid members to chose between a pay rise they can live on, or a dire deal straight away. We need to discuss how we fight and win a serious flat rate increase for our members, and control this in branches and by members.

Sections of the left in Unison have taken the defeat as a basis to direct their energy into the upcoming elections for the National Executive and General Secretary, as a way to build confidence. Calls for the left to unite around agreed candidates are of course welcome, but they don’t allow discussion of ways to transform the union or to build power in individual workplaces.

We need as a matter of urgency to build on the possibilities this special conference has given us to set up a new rank and file organisation for local government including re-energising blogs such 
as lgworker... and linking up rank and file branches and worker groups in branches, and across unions.

Manchester Branch arguing for support for Composite C (which they are part of)

We are moving this composite because recent pay negotiations have left us looking timid. Left us looking weak.
In our country, with a Tory Government, with a Tory dominated Local Government Association and with a Tory loving press, looking weak is a dangerous thing to do.
The Tories are like sharks who smell blood in the water. They will keep coming back. They will keep driving down pay and could start slashing national terms and conditions.
People are telling us that they are losing faith in national pay bargaining. Money is tight for everyone and a decent rise seems a long long way away.
We need to act. We need to restore confidence in the system and in the union. We can’t be seen to be sat on our hands as members get poorer and nothing changes.
2017 is too long to wait if we are going to be taken seriously. Writing letters, signing positions and ‘making the case’ is not enough. Our members need action.
This composite calls for just that. It will commit us to making a new pay claim for 2015/16. A decent, fair claim that will deliver for our members.
This motion will show our strength and our resolve. And it will show our members that we are a union that will always try and get them the kind of pay they deserve.
At its best UNISON is a fighting, campaigning union that does all it can for its members. This motion will help UNISON to be the best it can be.

Jon Rogers on re-opening the pay dispute 2015/16 (Composite C at todays Unison Special Conference)

Here are two posts supporting Composite C
Jon Rogers (personal blog see post here:

I was very pleased this evening to attend the excellent eve-of-Special-Conference fringe meeting hosted by the Camden branch.

The attendance at the fringe meeting was (in spite of the fact that so many delegates are not yet in London) more than enough to call for a card vote.

But we won't.

Unless and until we must.

We won't waste time.

There was an overwhelming mood to get through Conference business (without stifling debate) in order to ensure that delegates can have their say on the one Composite motion opposed by the Service Group Executive.

It would be a mistake to waste Conference time challenging the foolish decision to take a ninety minute lunch break out of an already foreshortened Conference.

It would be equally unwise to take time to point out that Composite A (the "get the leadership out of jail free" Composite) ought not to be on the agenda because its major component part (Motion 44) was incompetent in the first place.

Such challenges will take up Conference time without any realistic hope of a positive outcome, whereas there is genuine uncertainty about the outcome of substantive debates on policy.

We have little time.

We have much to do.

Comrades with good political points to make must make them briefly.

We are not going to the Special Conference to listen to speeches. We are there to make policy.

I have every confidence in the ability of rank and file activists to make good arguments with brevity and wit.

If we listen to a hundred good speeches but fail to agree Composite C we will have achieved very little.

The audience tomorrow is not the entirety of our membership, it is a small subset of the leading activists in our local government branches.

It is unlikely that the greatest of speeches tomorrow will win new adherents to socialism, or recruits to any organisation.

There is no significant controversy on the order of business ahead of Composite C.

If we debate Composite C delegates must be prepared to call for a card vote.

For, win or lose, we must know who was with us and who opposed having a worthwhile trade union (and a card vote is more likely to produce the result which supporters of Composite C seek).

Delegates must be prepared to move "the question be put" ruthlessly and without consideration for the desire of other delegates to make valid and important points.

And other delegates must reflect upon why they were sent to London tomorrow - and support such moves.

We are a trade union, not a debating society.

We need to show the same discipline on Conference floor tomorrow that we would hope for on a picket line.

And we must ensure that every UNISON member in local government can know how their delegates voted on the key question of whether we seek to resist the capitulation on local government pay.

Manchester's Unison branch web post

Today UNISON branches from across the country are meeting to find a new way forward and a new agreement on pay.
This is what we are hoping to achieve:

1: We believe that lay officials, members of UNISON elected by us, should be able to take part in negotiations with our employers on our pay.
The door to the conference room should not be locked.

2: We believe that we should be asked before our strike is called off. Branches should be consulted before descisions are made.
It’s our choice to strike. It should be our choice to return to work.

3: We believe our members need a real pay rise. We should submit a new pay claim for 2015/16.
We are all getting poorer. We can’t wait.

4: We believe members deserve the truth about how much money they have lost. Let’s give them clear simple figures showing what they have lost compared to inflation.
Let’s stop hiding the shoddy deals.

5: We believe we have to be honest with ourselves.
There’s no point saying that everything is fine because the last pay offer was agreed by the members. It doesn’t mean the members are happy. It doesn’t mean that we have the best protocols for negotiating pay or making decisions about industrial action.
Even if you believe that the deal was a good one, or you believe that the NJC committee made the right decision by calling off the strike, these are still good changes for us to make.
They will restore trust and confidence in national pay bargaining and they will bring our service group back together.

We can put the disagreements and disappointments behind us and get back to doing what we do best. Fighting for a good deal for UNISON Members.

Unison Special Local Government conference debates pay deals and strategy today

We apologise to those not in Unison for today this blog will focus on what could seem like an internal debate between the membership and sections of the leadership over this years pay debacle.

But we recognise that what happens in one union is important and useful to our comrades in sister unions in local government. Hopefully discussions are happening within branches and nationally how to avoid this. So whether you are in Unison (as an activist, officer or ordinary rank and file member) or in another local government union, please follow the posts on this blog

If you are on twitter at conference today we will be tweeting from @lgworkers
And using the hast tag

So follow this blog,  follow our tweets and keep in touch.