Monday, June 21, 2010

UNISON NDC 2010: London Labour Councils agreement on Living wage

This was yet another speech that I was “bumped off” by a point of order before I could deliver it. Such is life. I am really pleased with the recent ground breaking agreement between the affiliated local government unions and the London Labour councils about a living wage for all (picture is of UNISON St George hospital cleaners who won a hugeliving wage” pay rise based upon NHS terms and conditions in 2008).

"President, Conference, John Gray, Housing Association Branch, Greater London Region speaking in favour of Composite D.

In particular I would like to speak in favour of the clauses regarding the campaign for a Living wage. Conference, a campaign for a living wage is not just a London thing - it is a national matter. Across our 4 nations there are many areas with higher than average living costs. UNISON and its predecessor unions helped set up the minimum wage and we are horrified at what the CONDEMS will now do with it. However, it is a minimum wage and not a living wage in any part of the UK.

A living wage is a trade union matter but it is also still a particular UNISON trade union matter. I work for a large public housing organisation in London. In my organisation all directly employed staff are quite rightly paid above a living wage. Yet the contractor workers who clean my office are paid £5.80 per hour. The agency caretakers who are filling temporary vacancies are paid the same. The concierge who provide 24/7 reception and security services in our high rise tower block are also paid a flat rate £5.80 per hour for 12 hours shifts. They work 5 shifts minimum per week and are forced to opt out of the working hours limits. Now there are many branches here today in local government and health who have all workers protected under local or national agreements which pay above the minimum wage but I suspect that most branches will have members or workers entitled to join who are not.

While we will work with other organisations such as faith groups and NGO’s it is our duty and responsibility as trade unionists to make sure that all our workers are paid a living wage. We must also remember that a living wage should not only be around a basic rate of pay but also about maximum working hours, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions. The best way of ensuring that workers are paid a decent living wage is to include or link these workers to the existing national agreements.

Finally conference, some good news for a change with regards the living wage. Despite the horror of May 7th and the formation of the CONDEM government, in London at least we had some good news. Labour in London actually beat the Tories and we won a majority of Councils. What this meant is that Labour took control of London Councils which is the organisation that represents all boroughs.

UNISON Labour link in London has been able to take a lead and negotiate an agreement with Labour councils and local government unions. There are a number of good things in this agreement that that I am sure that most of us will agree on but in particular there is a clause that all these Labour councils will work towards a living wage for all their contractors by getting rid of a 2 tier workforce and getting everyone on the appropriate national terms and conditions. I did think of using this news in the debate on the political fund as an example of what you can achieve with an active and well supported regional Labour link to improve things for all workers. But I hope that all branches and regions will be trying to get similar agreements with their employers.

Conference please support a living wage for all - please support this composite.


Andrew Berry said...

Excellent idea. I wonder which branches led the way on such agreements?

Anonymous said...

Newham and Tower Hamlets.