From the TUC

Pay bargaining and injustice

19 Dec 2011, By

On 21 February the TUC will be holding its annual Pay Bargaining Forum with Incomes Data Services. (More details, or register) It’s about equipping union representatives with facts and arguments that will be useful in the 2012 pay negotiations; this is the bread and butter of trades unionism, but we’re consciously putting that in the context of unions’ long-term struggle for a fairer world.

So in addition to a practical “Pay Negotiators’ Tool Box” we’ll also be looking at how to challenge the fragmentation of bargaining and taking on some of the myths that are being promoted by our opponents. A good example of this sort of thing is the Chancellor’s claim in his Autumn Statement that:

“public sector pay has risen at twice the rate of private sector pay over the last four years.”

In a brilliant recent post, Alastair Hatchett of IDS (who’ll be one of the speakers at the conference) took this claim apart. In fact, the public sector was subject to tough pay constraints from 2005 on, and the fact that pay increases were higher than in the private sector was partly caused by the fact that so many public sector workers were still covered by long-term deals that weren’t seen as particularly generous when they were agreed in 2008. In the most recent period, in the 12 months to September 2011, earnings rose 1.8% in the public sector (excluding nationalised banks) and 2.4% in the private sector.

But negotiating decent pay rises and countering attempts to divide workers aren’t the only tasks for the trade union movement at the moment. We need to make the links between our day-to-day work negotiating for our members and our campaigns against austerity and for equality. That’s why the keynote speaker at the Forum will be Prof Danny Dorling, whose book Injustice is a great attack on the beliefs and prejudices that shore up support for an unfair system. Campaigning for fair employment laws, negotiating fair pay deals and lobbying to protect benefits and services are all important tasks in the fight for fairness. The Pay Bargaining Forum will combine practical advice with a reminder of the common threads that unite our work.