1 What is the pay claim?
Every year all the major unions in Local Government (UNISON, GMB, Unite) meet with the employers to submit a new wage claim. This happens at the National Joint Council (NJC) where unions meet with leaders of Local Government. Due to the cost of living crisis the unions submitted a pay claim for every worker in Local Government to get a minimum of £2000 pay increase or linked to RPI inflation (whichever is higher).
2. Will the employers accept this?
It is unlikely that they will accept it, they might come back with an offer of 3%-5% for instance.
3. That sounds good? Better than what I have had recently!
If we accept an offer of 5% with inflation at 11% then that will be a 6% pay cut in real terms.
4. What did we get last year?
Last year we were offered 1.75% and we balloted for strike action but nationally the turn out was too low so we ended up having to accept it. The 1.75% ‘increase’ was wiped out by the rise in National Insurance Contributions so many people didn’t really get much of a pay rise at all, not even counting inflation.
This was on the back of a decade of real term pay cuts which has seen all local government workers lose around 25% of their pay in real terms.
5. So what is the next step?
We are waiting for the employer to get back to us with their counter offer. Once we get that the plan we are likely to move straight to a ballot on industrial action.
6. Tell me more about the strike ballot
This will be an official ballot for industrial action. It will be by post as that is required by law so you cannot vote online. If we are balloted then everyone must fill in their ballot and then return it before the deadline. We need to get at least a 50% turn out with a resounding yes vote to be able to take action in pursuit of our claim.
7. Will this be a national ballot?
This will be a disaggregated ballot, which means that it will be employer by employer. This means if we get a solid vote in Lambeth then we can take action alongside other branches that also met the threshold of a 50% turn out.
8. What if I don’t really want to strike though?
Once all the petitions have been handed in and all the emails to MPs have been sent and the negotiations with the employers have hit a brick wall, the only thing that they will listen to is workers fighting back with their ultimate weapon, to withdraw their labour. Every serious gain that we have made as workers, from the weekend to eight-hour days to sick pay to holiday entitlement has been from sticking together and fighting together. That is what a union is all about.
If we strike it will mean a fight to force an increase from the government – we will be taking action the same as the railyway workers, postal workers and others across the economy who simply cannot take it any more and need our pay to reflect the cost of living.
UNISON also has strike pay of £50 a day which you can claim if we do strike.
The more important question might be – can you afford not to strike? Will you settle for a 4% pay increase given the huge problems of inflation?
9. How can I help?
Update your details on http://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison to make sure your address is up to date. If your postal ballot goes to the wrong place then that might mean you lose your ability to vote.
Recruit your workmates to UNISON, tell them about the pay campaign and what we are doing to help improve lives for workers.
Offer to help with ring rounds or workplace meetings – we need to speak to every member of the branch who is being balloted and make sure they have voted. This means we need volunteers to help call 5-10 people each and confirm they have voted so we can check them off the list. Please contact Simon or Jocelyn (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) to offer to help out.