UNISON sets out a strategy to reverse the decline in public sector pay

Gordon McKay
Gordon McKay

As our pay has declined, the rich simply get richer and richer. So UNISON will look to build support for progressive taxation systems, getting the message across that increasing pay will promote a healthier economy, and campaigning to change the neo-liberal policies that have been evident in not only Tory Governments but Labour ones too – policies that see the suppression of pay, the maximisation of profits, and the reduction of taxation.

“We will not be walking away from a fight,” said Gordon Mackay, NEC “This union’s strategy for fair pay is simple – Recruit, Campaign and Organise. And in case there is any doubt let me be absolutely clear, that includes sustained industrial action – co-ordinated campaigns with other unions. This union will protect and defend our members at all times.”

And Jane Aitchison, South Lanarkshire, called for UNISON to re-invigorate the Pay Claim Cycle “We need to win the arguments with members, the public, the media and our politicians. Our pay has been squeezed for over 30 years – deliberately.”

Jane Aitchison
Jane Aitchison

Gordon said that the union would work with every employer that commits to pay a Living Wage and a fair wage, and highlighted the importance of union membership and collective strength. “This union will continue to play to its strengths in the battles that lie ahead. But let’s be under no illusions, with five years of a spiteful Tory Government ahead of us we are not going to win a number of these arguments simply on the basis of being right. Our members will be forced into the position of taking industrial action and when they do, this union will give them full backing in their fight for fair pay,

He contrasted the public sector pay cap and five and half million people in this country earning less than the Living Wage, against the immediate £7000 a year rise for Tory MPs, and the 21% pay rise for FTSE 100 company directors. “The champagne corks were also popping in the City of London on May 8 as zero-hours contracts got a stay of execution and the tax-dodgers and evaders saw the loopholes getting bigger.”

Slamming other attacks on the poorest, with cuts in tax credits, the bedroom tax, the freezing of child benefits, Gordon added, “This is not about economic recovery, it is about increasing profits and increasing the wealth of the few at the expense of the many.” However, he pointed out it wasn’t just the Tories at fault, the Labour Party was wrong to say they spent too much on public services and wrong in attacking public sector wages.

Jane Aitchison said: “Our members have been made to feel lucky to have a job, with so many members on low pay, so many with more personal debt. And with the trade unions weakened. Our members are made to believe that the country can’t afford to pay public sector workers decent wages. But we know we can afford it”

“We know we can afford it. We know what the arguments are so we need to get them out there. The thousand richest families increased their wealth last year by £28bn to £547bn. Over six years their wealth has increased by 112%. And what have we had? Over 6 years, maybe 2% on our wages. Tax breaks for millionaires don’t bring more money into the local economy. 50p to 70p of a public sector workers’ pound will be spent locally. Giving public sector workers the living wage would bring over £700m in taxation into the economy.”

“We need to get support for economic alternatives to austerity and change the political consensus. We need to engage with our members, not just on whether they want to strike, but in education and campaigning around economic arguments and alternative strategies, which include higher pay.”

Conference Home | Conference Guide | Service Group Reports | Archive | UNISON UK reports