After much fanfare, the final employers’ offer on pay to local government workers, equating to roughly a 3p per hour increase, has gone out to member consultation. From 0.5 per cent to 1.25 per cent for those on scale points 4 to 10, 1 per cent for those on scale points 11 to 49, one extra day’s leave and a redundancy avoidance agreement to be agreed by December 2009.
Underlining that this is the best deal on offer, the respective trade union national negotiating bodies have recommended acceptance – though Unison, the largest union, is facing every possible direction by allowing branches to ignore the national recommendation, dumping collective responsibility and leadership. The offer is time-conditioned – take it quickly or there is nothing.
All the unions have clearly indicated that there will not be any industrial action, so why go through the consultation exercise? Why not just sign up, roll over and get on with it?
Hawks in Tory London boroughs are saying they will not pay it anyway, despite being signatories to the national agreement. Some might suggest this is a cunning ploy by various negotiators to ensure the consultation exercise comes in with a Yes vote. Some may see it as yet more smoke and mirrors. What definitely will follow from this fiasco is that the already extensive local bargaining and undermining of national joint conditions will be exacerbated.
The Tory agenda for local government, now the overwhelming majority party in the overwhelming number of councils, boroughs, districts and counties across England, is to dismantle national bargaining. It actually also reflects Labour Party national strategy, following up the privatisation and dismantling of local services. So they’re all together but Tories look set to provide the shock troops.
If the trade unions get their minds and actions together then over a period of time this could work to their advantage, but the will and leadership has to be there. The one size fits all Unison response to pay in local government in recent years of national strike action is now well and truly buried. Workers in local government are going to have to think through new guerrilla tactics for dealing with an employer side on the offensive, with radical reshaping of public service provision being piloted – Total Space (see page 6) – inspired by Labour and implemented by the Tories.