UNISON Scotland’s ballot for industrial action in the face of the COSLA pay offer dispute has been defeated, as the turnout was below the 50% threshold required by the Trade Union Act 2016. On 1 June, UNISON revealed that 22.8% of members voted with 62.7% voting in favour of industrial action.
Back in April, Unite members overwhelming voted to accept the COSLA pay offer, with 82% voting to accept and 17% to reject. GMB also accepted, with 69% voting for the deal. UNISON, following a national campaign encouraging members to reject the offer, voted 77.6% to reject with only 22.4% voting to accept.
COSLA pay offer
1% pay rise for those earning over £35K or £350 rise for those earning under. For a worker earning £16K £350 is the equivalent of a pay rise of 2.19%.
The initial offer was 1% for those earning over £25K and £250 for those earning under, but this was increase following negotiations with trade unions.
This maximum pay increase of 2.19% for our lowest paid workers is in the face of
- an inflation rate at 2.9% (May 2017); the highest in the past four years.
- council tax increase of 3%
- council rent increase by a minimum of 2%
- rail fare increase.
Had it all been four months’ earlier, there would have been the possibility of a strike. Already, we are seeing the effects of the Tories’ Trade Union Act. The 50% threshold is an attack on trade unions and the ability of workers to deny their labour.
We have to bear in mind that this rule was imposed on workers by a government that routinely allows turnouts below 30% to elect regional police commissioners in England and Wales. In the May 2016 England and Wales police and crime commissioner elections, only 7 of the 40 regions saw turnouts of over 30%. None had a turnout of over 50%. The same elections back in 2012 saw a historically low turnout of 15%. This election system was introduced by Theresa May, as home secretary, who said that despite the turnout the result was the ‘voice of the people’.
`This episode shows us that union advice weighs heavily on members’ decisions: Unite’s ballot letter recommended accept, while UNISON campaigned for reject. The overwhelming decisions in both cases are evidence that members respect the analysis of their unions when it comes to pay.