On 24th July, UNISON’s Northwest Local Government Service Group Executive met for the first time since the national acceptance of a 1% pay increase that our region rightly opposed and actively campaigned against.
Historically, the majority of Northwest Branches have been loyal to our national leadership, but there was palpable anger in the room, which came out once the discussion turned to next year’s pay claim.
Delegates from branches which represent the full spectrum of left to right politics in UNISON were in complete agreement that the 1% “deal” for 2013/14 was a disgrace and that we were demanding better for 2014/15.
The tone was set very early by a delegate from the usually loyal Manchester Branch, who declared that “we should say 6% and if they say no we should ballot”.
Other delegates suggested we put in a claim for 11% (“because it if’s good enough for MPs it’s good enough for us!”) and see where we can get with negotiations. This line was backed by one of the region’s representatives of the national Service Group Executive.
However, a delegate from one of the left branches spoke instead to agree with his new “comrade” from Manchester: “I don’t think we should negotiate. Why would we negotiate when we already know that their bottom line is 1%. We should get a mandate from our members for an amount – 6% sounds fair given that we’ve already lost 18% in real terms since this Government got in – and tell the Government, that’s what we want and if you don’t give it us we’re going to ballot!” Other delegates then spoke in agreement.
Clearly any decision about our pay claim would need to be taken at a national level and the meeting I refer to does not have the authority to mandate representatives to national bodies. However, all three of our regional SGE reps were in the room and they know that this was the Executive of the largest service group in the largest region of the union. Hopefully they will relay our thoughts to other reps from across UNISON’s various regions and this year will be the year that UNISON sets the tone on pay rather than waiting for the Government to do it for us.