UNISON local government delegates from across the UK met at a special conference in London on Tuesday 24th March, including a delegation from the West Sussex branch.
The Special Conference was called to debate the lessons of the recent pay campaign and agree a set of proposals to increase member engagement and democratic participation in every aspect of future pay campaigns.
This was only the second time such a special conference had been called in the history of UNISON, after a number of branches – including UNISON West Sussex – put their names to a call to requisition one.
During a day of impassioned speeches and strong feelings about the impact of the government’s continuing pay freeze and years of declining pay in local government, a range of composites and motions were agreed.
- Delegates agreed to amend the local government service group’s procedures to ensure that ‘meaningful, clear and transparent’ consultation is carried out with branches. This would include the consultation which takes place before strikes are called off.
- Lay representatives from the appropriate sector committees will also in future be involved in all pay negotiations.
- The union will lodge an additional pay claim for 2015/16 with a settlement date of 1 April 2015 to include a Living Wage rate as the minimum pay value of the NJC pay spine and an equivalent flat rate pay increase to be applied to all other scale points.
- The conference also agreed a report from the service group executive to alter the union’s pay consultation processes to improve participation – including allowing branches to carry out consultation using electronic polling methods, such as surveymonkey.
- And when members vote in strike ballots to accept a period of discontinuous strike action, in future a clear timetable for strike dates and their escalation will be established.
Delegates were determined to get through the day’s business in an efficient manner, and to secure a number of improvements to the processes UNISON uses during pay negotiations.
UNISON West Sussex Branch Secretary and a delegate to the Conference, Dan Sartin said, ‘Our members are worth more than 1.1%. The economy is picking up, yet our members are expected by the Government to take hit after hit to their wages, which have shrunk by 20% in real terms. We now work Fridays for free.
“The submission of a new pay claim for 2015/16 is an important step in our pay campaign and a clear signal to the Government that we mean business. We must break the pay freeze, and we will.”
Dan spoke at the Conference to highlight the central importance of recruiting and organising new members to the success of pay campaigning. Dan [pictured above] outlined the West Sussex Branch’s view that branches are best placed to do this work, and for it they require improved resourcing within the union’s overall structures.