Tightening budgets and undercutting bids means the pay of BAE Systems members on RAF bases has been squeezed for years. Sharon Graham’s direct support, and the Work Voice Pay tools she provides, helped us beat the employer at the bargaining table and begin to win back what had been lost.
I’m the Senior BAE Systems Shop Steward at RAF Valley in Anglesey. We organise all BAE Systems (non-executive) employees responsible for the continuing airworthiness of two fleets of Hawk aircraft on behalf of the RAF. I am also secretary of a Pan-Base Committee which links us to our colleagues and members at other BAE Systems sites at four other RAF bases across the UK. Together we form the Pan-Base Bargaining group part of BAE Systems Air Sector.
We bargain against RPI, but because these figures are only published as a monthly figure the company refused to recognise the annual degrading of our wages in comparison to an annual change in RPI. The constant challenge put to us was ‘prove it!’
At a local activist’s event I raised this as a concern. Sharon, who was present, promised to support to us. Sharon, as always, answered my questions personally and provided us with strong, credible and evidenced information that could not be denied by our company. With the information she provided about our part of the business, and an evidenced annual RPI rate, we could finally prove that our wages had indeed fallen behind the cost of living.
The company had previously - and randomly - chosen October as the month for calculating RPI for the purposes of bargaining. This year (2020) that rate was 1.3%. Using Sharon’s data we were able to prove that, come October, RPI was running at an annual rate of 1.59%. This and the other data provided by Work Voice Pay allowed us to negotiate an above RPI inflation rate wage rise for the first time in 7 years. In our first real pay rise in relation to the cost of living, we achieved a pay rise of 2.42%.
I’m supporting Sharon Graham for General Secretary because Unite needs to be a trade union again! Sharon’s attention to detail makes seemingly small marginal gains along the way, but these count towards small victories that eventually add up to substantial wins. I’m a socialist and I’m not saying we take a back seat in politics; however, first and foremost, we need to focus on what delivers for our members, that’s why we do what we do!