By Katy Dollar
“Despite their courage and sacrifice throughout COVID-19, council and school workers have been offered 1.75%. With inflation at 3.9%, that’s a real terms pay cut.” With those words, the public services union Unison is launching a consultation with a strong recommendation to reject.
On 27 July the Employers’ Side of the National Joint Council (NJC) wrote to the unions with a final pay offer for 2021.
• An increase of 2.75% for those on pay point 1
• An increase of 1.75% for everyone else
• Completion of the outstanding work of the joint Term-Time-Only review group
• Discussions on joint framework guidance on homeworking (but no offer of a homeworking allowance)
• Discussions on joint guidance on mental health
• Incorporation of new statutory provisions for neo-natal leave and pay into the Green Book.
Unison’s consultation will start in late August. But this will be a particularly difficult pay campaign. During the coronavirus pandemic some 82% of UK local authority staff have been working from home, compared to just 5% before, so usual organising methods such as walkabouts, postering, and leafleting are less effective. Reps will need to build online meetings, covid-distanced demonstrations and other alternative modes. Strong local campaigns will put pressure on employers and prepare the ground towards a strike ballot.
A coordinated campaign across the public sector would ramp up pressure on the government and reanimate sectoral campaigns which have so far been low energy despite real term pay cuts. Rank-and-file militants across all public sector unions will be agitating for that approach.