A union chief claims his reps have more standing than the MPs calling for reform.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the country’s biggest trade union, Unison, slammed Tory plans to make striking harder . . . and said millions of paid up members give union chiefs more clout that politicians.
He was speaking as of the Northern TUC held a Public Services Alliance Emergency Summit in Newcastle over what unions brand a “constant assault on the public sector”.
David Cameron’s party wants to raise the strike ballot threshold to a 40% turnout, end a ban on using agency workers to cover strikers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for strike action to take place and curb picketing.
Today, a strike is valid if it achieves a simple majority.
Defenders of the proposals – which form part of the Tories’ election manifesto – say strikes with low turnout among supporters are not legitimate.
But Dave Prentis said his union has the backing of its 1.3 million members, adding: “As public sector workers, we need to be able to take many forms of action or employers will be able to do whatever they want to us.
“If we do get another five years of this coalition, public services will shrink back to 1930s levels and the trade unions will be hit more than anybody else.
“We represent 1.3 million public sector workers and I really do think that trade unions and their representatives have got more standing than the politicians putting forward these proposals.”
The union chief is lashing out after a long period of discontent which has seen dozens of strikes across the public sector over job losses and pay cuts.
He added the reforms put unions in an impossible position.
He said: : “Turnout is about 25% to 30% throughout the country but we do want to encourage people to vote.
“We spend millions of pounds sending out voting papers to home addresses when life is different now. You can vote electronically and in many different organisations you use email or mobile phone but we can’t do that.
“We are willing to fund a ballot box near workplaces to do a vote just like in a general election, but because of legislation we can’t do these things.
“The only means our members can vote is a postal ballot. This puts us in an impossible position.”
The Emergency Public Services Summit is being held at the Thistle County Hotel in Newcastle city centre on Saturday.
It is chaired by Clare Williams, chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance, and other speakers include Tyneside Labour MPs Dave Anderson and Chi Onwurah.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Jan 2015
Today local government employees in the region will take part in protests, stunts and rallies at lunchtime and outside work hours as part of their campaign for fair pay and fair council funding.
The activities today will highlight the state of Local Government pay and the impact of cuts on local jobs and services.
Clare Williams, UNISON Regional Convenor, said: “Today is an opportunity for local government members across the region to tell their employers that they have had enough of being treated like second-class citizens. In the last four years they have seen a massive fall in real terms in their earnings, and are struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families.
“Many are having to resort to Food Banks to put food on their tables. They are demanding a decent pay rise in recognition of the valuable role that they perform in delivering quality public services to children, young people, the elderly and vulnerable in our communities. The government cuts are having a devastating impact on service provision and on those who are committed to delivering public services. It’s time to stand up for local government and tell the public how government cuts are hitting us all.”
Since 2010, council workers have had a three year pay freeze and then just a 1% increase last year, representing an 18% fall in pay in real terms, back to the level of the 1990s. Council budgets have been cut by 40% by the Coalition government.
UNISON, GMB and Unite – the unions representing 1.6 million Local Government workers – formally submitted their pay claim to employers last November, and expect a formal pay offer later this month.
Ms Williams added: “Politicians need to do more than just talk about supporting the Living Wage, now is the time for Local Government employers to implement it and end low pay for their staff. More than half a million of whom currently earn less than the Living Wage. More than 75% of the workforce are women, whose contribution has been consistently undervalued. UNISON wants this pay increase to be part of a new gender agenda to give women in Local Government the recognition they deserve in their pay packets.”
She said members in local government now need a commitment from the government and the Local Government Employers to make a decent pay offer.
Source – Newcastle Journal 04 Feb 2014
The Salvation Army‘s new regional pay structure came into force at the start of the month, bringing with it cuts in pay for hostel workers – including at the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge in Sunderland.
The charity says the cuts are in response to changes in funding for homelessness services from central and local Government.
Clare Williams, regional convenor of the union Unison, said: “These changes will result in workers doing the same job in different areas of the country for different levels of pay, which in itself is unfair.
“However, it is aiming to achieve this by implementing severe cuts to pay and service conditions without properly considering the effects on its own workforce and the services it provides to vulnerable people locally.
“The charity says the changes are to secure future contracts for homeless services paid for by the Supporting People Grant.
“The irony is that the impact of these cuts upon its own staff will put many on the poverty line and some at risk of losing their own homes.”
Readers might like to consider the fact that the Salvation Army are also enthusiastic users of forced labour – unemployed under threat of benefit sanctions – to staff their charity shops. Perhaps they have plans to extend forced labour to other areas of their organization.
More on the SA and unpaid labour here –
Perhaps we need a resurrection of the Skeleton Army – a diffuse group, active in Southern England, that opposed and disrupted The Salvation Army’s marches against alcohol in the late 19th century. Clashes between the two groups led to the deaths of several Salvationists and injuries to many others.
A fascinating – and largely unknown – example of popular protest. Read more here –