Socialist Party members in Unison

Unison members in local government are receiving ballot papers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland asking their views on another below-inflation pay rise. Employers have offered a £1,925 (£2,355 in London) increase. The offer does not meet the joint union claim for £2,000, or the rate of inflation (11.6%RPI when the claim was submitted), whichever is higher.

Even for the lowest-paid members, this does not meet inflation, which is rising month on month. A teaching assistant on ‘Scale 3’ could find themselves almost £10 a week worse off than they were at the start of the year if this rise is agreed.

Branches are sending out consultation ballots to members. A number of branches with left leaderships will be recommending the offer is rejected. While the increase is more than many members have seen in some time, it will not meet the cost-of-living crisis members are facing this year.

Many of these branches will be making it clear that Unison members in local government can launch a successful campaign of industrial action to win the full claim. Local government workers can join rail workers, postal workers and many others who are taking national strike action for inflation-proofed pay rises now.

But this will be in contrast to Unison’s national negotiators, who argue this employer’s offer is the best that can be achieved by negotiation alone. However, they have not recommended members reject the offer, and instead are leaving them to decide on their own. There isn’t even any material explaining what the offer means, either in comparison to the claim or against the background of rising inflation.

Local government workers have had their wages frozen since 2009. Employers have used austerity to hold down wages in a period of cuts to budgets. The right-wing union leaders during this time failed to organise an effective fight against pay restraint, and this has led to pay being worth 80% of the 2009 level.

Unison’s new left leadership at national level, under the banner of ‘Time For Real Change’ has explained the shortcomings of the employer’s offer, but have neither recommended rejection or criticised the national negotiators for not recommending rejection. The best fighters in the union will be comparing this to the period of the right-wing leadership and questioning what is the difference.

It is also clear the employers have no agreement for additional funding from the government for the offer. Unison and the other trade unions must demand the additional funding and fight for this to be announced in the Autumn Budget Statement.

Councillors, including all Labour councils around the UK, have refused to fight for the resources needed to provide the decent services and now many of them are at breaking point. The local government trade unions must demand councils cough up an inflation-proofed pay rise and the money from the Tories to find it.