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Special Local Government Conference London 24 March 2015

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Conference reports from a Scotland perspective and where Scotland delegates are particularly involved will be posted here. For other reports see the UK pages. Follow breaking news from Scotland on the UNISON Scotland blog.

Special Local Government Conference 24 March 2015

Conference sets out new pay campaign strategy

Mark Ferguson
Mark Ferguson, Chair, Scottish Local Government Committee and SJC UNISON Trade Union Side
Inez Teece
Susan Kennedy
Scott Donohoe
Scott Donohoe

Scotland played an important role as UNISON local government delegates from across the UK met at this special conference in London.

The conference was called primarily to debate the lessons of the recent pay campaign in England and Wales and agree a set of strong proposals to increase member engagement and democratic participation in every aspect of future pay campaigns. However Scotland had an important part to play as we shared the lessons from our own pay campaign.

Delegates backed two motions from Scotland. The first called for our bargaining and industrial strategies for fair pay to be allied with a consistent, sustained and coherent political strategy, aimed at addressing the “30 years trends of suppressing wages...”

Moving the motion, Scottish Delegate Inez Teece, said, “Local government pay has not been a political priority for recent governments in fact the contrary, there has been deliberate attempts to drive down pay and to devalue the work, the vital work that we all do.

“Often it is our members that are believing the rhetoric that there is no other way and to just accept the hand we are dealt and that we are not worth it.

She told conference that in Scotland we have adopted an industrial action strategy that has political lobbying at the heart of everything we do seeking to influence political parties at all levels, not as a one off process but a continuing fight showing both the membership and the politicians that we mean business and that we are worth it.

She said, “To achieve a decent day's pay for a decent day's work we not only have to convince our members but also the politicians.

“We need to ensure all elected representatives are aware of our plight but also how their decisions are affecting the services and the people that deliver those services.

“We need to build strategies that encompass political lobbying so that all politicians cannot say they didn't know,” said Inez, calling for further development is needed to ensure a long-term project is developed, not only in Scotland but across all nations, in a consistent and coherent way, allied to our other industrial strategies alongside other unions.

Susan Kennedy, Scottish representative on Local Government’s national ruling body, the Service Group Executive, also supported the motion.

The conference also backed Scotland’s second motion, moved by Scott Donohoe, calling for future campaigns to ensure lay involvement in pay negotiations, something that we already have in our Scottish structures, and to increase member participation and engagement in the fight for fair pay.

It also called for more joined up working with the other trade unions based on a set of agreed principles, strategies and timescales.

During a day of impassioned speeches and strong feelings about the impact of the government’s continuing pay freeze and years of declining pay in local government, a range of composites and motions were agreed, which pledged the union to ensure a UK-wide perspective on all pay campaigning; to put women and gender equality at the heart of campaigning; to work jointly with other unions and to build bargaining and industrial strength through a massive recruitment and organising effort.

Kate Ramsden
Communications and Campaigns Committee


Pre-conference briefing

Mark Ferguson
Message from Mark Ferguson, Chair, Scottish Local Government Committee and SJC UNISON Trade Union Side

This Special Requisitioned Local Government Conference has been called to allow a debate to take place around pay, negotiations and consultation procedures.

This UK wide conference will consider 54 motions from across the regions.

The Scottish Local Government Committee has submitted two motions, Motion 37 'Campaigning for Fair Pay for Local Government Workers' and Motion 41 'Pay Consultation Procedures'.

Motion 37 centres around campaigning involving political and improved industrial strategies, low pay and a long term project plan aimed at addressing 30 years of suppressed wages.

Motion 41 seeks to amend the current - and new consultation procedures (if approved) - to include the need for lay involvement in decisions and negotiations, to seek the agreement of other trade unions covered by the relevant bargaining machinery to a set of principles, campaign strategies and timescales prior to the submission of a joint claim and engagement of members at the grassroots to build and effective and political industrial campaign on pay.

I would encourage branches to participate in debates and remember that motions which restrict Scotland from voting under rule P.1.3.6 still allow Scottish input into the discussion/debate. Rule states:

"Standing Orders Committees for Service Group Conferences, in exercising powers in accordance with Rule P.2.3, shall have regard to the national negotiating machinery in devolved administrations. The Standing Orders Committee may make recommendations to restrict voting to representatives of members covered by that machinery which shall be subject to ratification by Conference in accordance with Rule P.2.4."

Your two Regional Representative from the Scottish Local Government Committee are Scott Donohoe (Glasgow City Branch) and Inez Teece (Aberdeenshire Branch). Please contact them should you require advice/assistance and remember it is important that you advise them as early as possible if you intend to take part in a debate to allow them to liaise with rostrum control and other regions. They will be available on the floor of Conference.

Your Local Government Service Group Executive members on the platform are Mark Ferguson (Renfrewshire Branch), Carol Ball (Vice Chair of the LGSGE - Glasgow City Branch), Susan Kennedy (Aberdeenshire Branch), Alison McCorquodale (Western Isles Branch) and Colin Paterson (Fife Branch).

I look forward to seeing you all at Conference.

Advice on Conference themes

1. Re-open NJC Pay Negotiations 2015/16

Scottish SGE Reps' View: This is a matter for members covered by NJC pay, terms and conditions therefore it is unlikely that Scottish delegates will have a vote under rule P.1.3.6. The Service Group Executive is OPPOSING this on the basis that these negotiations have ended following a members' ballot where 64% of those voting accepted the employers' offer.

2. Suspension of Strike Action

Motions containing this are, in the main, stating that any decision to suspend strike action must involve a consultation process that is clear and transparent involving branches and regions which, at a minimum, is at the same level as the consultation process which agreed the claim.

Scottish SGE Reps' View: This could prove impracticable due to timescale and depending on what stage you are at in your industrial action campaign. This, if carried, would mean that the Scottish Local Government Committee/Scottish Joint Council UNISON Side would be unable to take a position to suspend strike action on an improved offer without the agreement of branches.

For example, if an employer made an offer the day before planned industrial action, we would be bound by rule to continue the action as time would not permit to consult branches and subsequently for branches to consult members.

The Scottish SGE Reps would encourage branches to oppose motions or amendments that would restrict SJC decision making.

3. Lay Activist Involvement

A significant number of motions seek to amend the consultation procedures by stating that there should be no negotiations, discussions or decisions without lay member involvement.

Scottish SGE Reps' View: Your LGSGE Reps are broadly in favour of these proposals, however we recognise that this should not preclude the ability to have informal off the record discussions.

We would encourage branches to support Scottish Motion 41 which states ‘That there should be lay activist involvement in all decisions and negotiations.

This does not exclude the ability to have informal/off the record discussions. Both lay activists and paid officials should work in partnership and ensure that each is aware of all developments.’

We would encourage branches to oppose motions or amendments which do not reflect the Scottish Motion.

4. LGSGE Consultation Procedures on Pay

At last year's Local Government Conference a commitment was given by the LGSGE to consult Regions and Branches on the current pay consultation procedures and bring proposals back to the 2015 Local Government Conference.

Given that the consultation has taken place and the calling of the Special Requisition Conference, a decision was taken to submit Motion 43 Pay Consultation Procedures.

Scottish SGE Reps' View: It is important that Motion 43 is debated and agreed in order for all nations/regions within the UK to move forward in future pay negotiations which would allow a more member-centred approach in consultations and establishing political and industrial campaigns on pay.

It is our understanding that full copies of the pay consultation procedures should be available at the Conference as Standing Orders Committee did not allow for inclusion of the document in the preliminary or final agenda.

Other motions to look out for:

Motion 5 - North West Region - A Decent Pay Increase for Local Government Members
Scottish SGE Reps' View: It is unlikely that Scotland will be able to vote on this motion under Rule P.1.3.6., however the LGSGE is concerned that it seeks to re-open the NJC negotiations for 2015-16.

Motion 44 - NJC Local Government Committee - NJC Pay Campaign 2016
Scottish SGE Reps' View
: This motion seeks to address concerns and criticisms of the NJC Committee's handling of pay 2014-16 - this is not a matter for Scottish Delegates, however the motion sets out a number of recommendations for future pay negotiations we may wish to consider in Scotland.





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Essential cover
Special Local Government Conference
Tuesday 24 March 2015
The Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London, SW1P 3EE
Click here for Scotland Conference briefing

Scottish briefing
A Scotland Conference Briefing has also gone out to delegates in hard copy.