Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/850/20388
Unison special conference votes for submission of new pay claim
Socialist Party members in Unison
Delegates at the Unison local government special conference on 24th March delivered a massive blow to the leadership by voting to submit a new pay claim for 2015-2016.
The special conference was called following an initiative from the north west region in the wake of widespread anger among the membership over the debacle of last year's pay dispute.
The strike was called off, with local government trade unions accepting a worse deal than what had previously been on the table.
The mood of the conference floor was defiant as attempts by the leadership to filibuster the call for a new pay claim backfired.
This was thanks to a disciplined approach by delegates from the floor, determined to come away from the conference with a commitment to a further pay claim.
Despite a clear majority of delegates voting in favour by a show of hands, the president called for a card vote. Unfortunately for the leadership this returned precisely the same result!
Delegates were in no mood to accept the usual attempts by the bureaucracy to blame the membership for an unwillingness to fight and to accept continued pay restraint. They repeatedly called for a determined and confident lead to be given over pay.
The anger of delegates wasn't just restricted to those at the top of the union. The Labour Party and the union's relationship with it came in for strong criticism.
At the time of the deal a letter emerged from Jim McMahon, leader of the Labour Party group in the Local Government Association, to Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.
In the letter McMahon instructed Prentis to recommend the offer to Unison members or it would be taken off the table.
Speaking from the top table, Socialist Party member Mike Forster called for an end to deals "... done behind our back with the Labour Party.
Next time when they threaten us, let us withdraw funding from every councillor and every MP that supports the Labour Party". This received a huge round of applause from the floor.
Important steps were also taken to increase rank and file control of future pay disputes. An amendment to a motion on the decision to cancel strike action for 14th October last year ensured "at least one" lay member would be present at future talks with the employers.
Later in the conference a separate amendment from Hackney council Unison branch, moved by Socialist Party member Brian Debus, increased the number to two.
The conference ended on a comical note. For reasons known only to the management of the venue the speakers started playing 'Cry me a River'.
No doubt it struck a chord with many of the glum faced leaders of Unison as they trooped dejectedly off stage!
The conference result was a big step forward towards fighting to win back some of the money stolen from Unison members by years of pay freezes.
It was also a victory for rank and file democracy. However, much work remains to be done to ensure that the leadership carries out the decisions of conference.
A new pay claim must be submitted by the National Joint Council before the general election in May.
It is vital that rank and file members in the other major local government unions, Unite and GMB, follow the lead of the decisions made at this special conference.
Pressure must be brought to bear in those unions to ensure that Unison 'isolation' (despite being by far the biggest local government union) is not used as an excuse for inaction by Unison leaders.
Also, the conference must be a platform to transform Unison into a fighting union. All Unison members and activists should be inspired by it to make a determined effort to get the 'Reclaim the Union' slate of left-wing candidates elected in the forthcoming Unison NEC elections that start on 7th April (slate below).
'Reclaim the Union' slate of candidates for the Unison NEC
Female: Claire Wormald
Reserved: Polly Smith
Female: Jean Thorpe
Male: Adrian Picton
Reserved: Gail Flack
Female: Helen Davies
Female: Sonia Howard
Male: Jon Rogers
Reserved: Angela Boyle
Female: Bernie Gallagher
Female: Karen Reissmann
General: Tony Wilson
Male: Roger Bannister
Reserved: Diane Cawood
Female: Naomi Junnor
General: Jim McFarlane
Male: Duncan Smith
Female: Jacqui Berry
Female: Diana Leach
Male: Paul Couchman
Reserved: Sue Hatherley
Male: Bernie Parkes
Reserved: Suzy Franklin
Female: Alice Greenlees
Male: Jamie Davies
Female: Sharon Campion
Male: Dave Auger
Yorkshire & Humberside
Female: Helen Jenner
Female: Sarah Littlewood
Male: Adrian Kennett
Reserved: Vicky Perrin
Female: Janet Bryan
General: Kieran Grogan
Female: Jordan Rivera
Female: Sam Strudwick
General: Ben Jackson
Male: Dave Byrom
Female: Tomasa Bullen
General: Max Watson
Female: Jane Doolan
Female: Phoebe Watkins
General: Paul Holmes
Male: Glenn Kelly
Police & Justice
General: Kevin Allsopp
Water, Environment & Transport
General: John Jones
Female: April Ashley
Female: Nusrat Bukhari
Male: Hugo Pierre
In The Socialist 25 March 2015:
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International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
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