Significantly later than usual, on 16 February, Unison, GMB, and Unite, the three unions who have negotiating rights for local government workers, including non-teaching staff in schools, have submitted a pay claim for a minimum 10% increase for all grades from April 2021.
We have lost almost a quarter of our pay in real terms since 2010; as frontline workers we have continued to work through the pandemic; and the lowest paid have now fallen below the real living wage (as defined by the Living Wage Foundation). The claim also includes a demand for home working expenses, a reduction in the working week to 35 hours (34 in London) with no loss of pay, and extra leave.
The information shared with members and branches does not explain a strategy for fighting the government's public sector pay freeze. The pay freeze isn’t even mentioned.
The claim comes several months later than prescribed by Unison’s agreed policy of submitting pay claims in the autumn to allow for a campaign which can build up to strikes. A claim announced less than seven weeks before the settlement date and without a political campaign or plan to take on the governments pay freeze, or mention of coordinating with Unison members in health and higher education, will not fill us with confidence.
Still, Unison activists should take up the claim and build strong local campaigns to put pressure on employers and prepare the ground towards a strike ballot. If the national unions are not coordinating with other public sector workers we should start doing that at rank and file level.