Page 3: Safeguarding employees´ rights
UNISON is involved in negotiating the best possible working conditions for its members and for workers in general. Sometimes trade unions will work together to negotiate with management on behalf of a whole category of workers within an organisation. This is known as collective bargaining. Collective bargaining gives a great deal of power to the unions involved because they are seen to be in agreement, demonstrating collective strength.
In 2002 UNISON consulted and co-operated with other unions to secure a pay rise for local authority employees. This ranged from 10.9for lower paid workers to 7.7overall over a 2 year period. Before agreement could be reached, 750,000 council staff staged a one-day national strike to highlight low pay in local government. This campaign drew massive support from members and non-members.
The union will negotiate on behalf of a whole section of workers or on behalf of an individual worker, depending on the matter that needs to be resolved. The union can act as mediator between employer and employee, opening up an effective and expert channel of communication that aims to resolve the issue in a fair and democratic way that will satisfy both parties.
UNISON campaigns on issues that will influence decisions which can be resolved only by law. Currently UNISON is lobbying for the minimum wage to be increased to £6.00 an hour and for National Minimum Wage coverage for 16 and 17 year olds. It would also like to see an automatic formula to increase this regularly and substantially.
UNISON works relentlessly to provide support for its members. When Lisa Potts was severely injured during a machete attack at the school where she was a nursery nurse, she was offered £49,000 in compensation. UNISON criticised the compensation system and strove to have the award increased. Lisa eventually received £68,300. The union argued the case that the money she received would never compensate her for the fact that, because of her injuries, she would not be able to return to the job she loved.
Throughout 2003, UNISON local pay negotiators around the UK have been drawing attention to the levels of low pay and poor working terms and conditions suffered by some private contract staff who work inside the National Health Service. These include car park attendants, cleaners, porters and catering staff employed by private contractors but working in hospitals around the country. UNISON has successfully agreed a number of deals around the country to increase the pay of these workers to bring it in line with their NHS counterparts.