Attacks show Welsh Labour is no friend to Unison members

24th April 2014

As reported in the Socialist, Bridgend Council intends to refuse to honour nationally negotiated pay awards this year. The local authority UNISON branch has now voted overwhelmingly in an indicative ballot, for balloting for strike action if these plans are implemented.

According to the press in Wales, Labour First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, is deeply embarrassed by these events. He bloody well should be embarrassed that a council of his own party, in his own Assembly constituency should be attacking collective bargaining in a way that no other party in Wales has attempted.

He should also be embarrassed about his own failure to provide any leadership. He has yet to come out and condemn the Council or demand, as the public leader of the Labour Party in Wales, that the Labour council drop this attack on workers' pay and unions' recognition for collective bargaining. His initial response of, "this is a matter for the Council" was woefully inadequate.

In a statement to the press, UNISON’s head of local government for Wales, Dominic MacAskill made it clear that a commitment to national pay bargaining is non-negotiable, "Bridgend is the first and only council in Wales to give notice that it intends to withdraw from national pay bargaining. They’re saying it’s only for this year, but you can’t dip in and out of national pay talks on a whim." He goes on to say that if the Council carries through their plans it will inevitably lead to ballots for strike action.

Socialist Party Wales members in Unison welcome this robust response. We do think there is more that our union could do though. For instance, UNISON could immediately withdraw all cooperation from partnership working with the local authority employers and Welsh Government, until they exert sufficient pressure to ensure Bridgend backs down.

We should also withdraw permanently all support from the Labour Party, whose public representatives are responsible for this attack on our members, the latest in a list of similar betrayals of UNISON members. While Bridgend may be the only council in Wales intending to withdraw from national pay bargaining, they are certainly not the only Welsh Labour-led council betraying UNISON members.

Carmarthenshire Council has been forced to suspend proposals to withdraw all union secondments by the campaigning of the UNISON branch but the threat is still there. Cardiff Council's UNISON Branch is balloting over a forced reduction in paid hours. Unison members in Swansea, facing a loss of up to 10% in income, were told publicly by the Deputy Leader of the Council to "sign or be sacked".

Ronnie Job, UNISON steward (personal capacity) & Swansea Socialist Party member
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