The UK's largest public sector union, Unison, has issued guidance to its members advising them to enforce the hated bedroom tax.
Earlier this month, June, Unison sent a circular to local government branches, which is attached below. In this circular, Unison acknowledges that the bedroom tax is "grossly unfair" and claims it is "campaigning for it to be repealed".
However, the key part of the circular is about the council housing workers who will be tasked with enacting and enforcing the bedroom tax, many of whom will be Unison members, stating:
It is… vital to ensure that UNISON members are advised, that if they are employed to administer part of the arrears recovery process, that they should follow the instructions of their employer and that they should be advised that they are placing their continued employment at risk if they choose not to fulfil their contract of employment.
This applies whether that is the sending of reminder letters, issuing possession proceedings, applying to the Magistrate’s Court for a possession order, attending Court, instructing bailiffs or attending with bailiffs in order to secure possession.
This advice is at odds with the positions of at least some Unison branches, like mine, who have democratically decided to oppose the bedroom tax and agreed in principle to attempt to resist enforcing it.
In my view, while it is true that employees who refuse to carry out the instructions of their employer can get in trouble, that is not a valid reason to instruct employees to do exactly what their employers tell them. If workers always did that, we would still be working 16 hour days 360-odd days a year!
When we stick together, we can get away with defying management. In this situation, where only a small minority of council workers are the ones who would have to bear the risk of refusing this work, the rest of us can support them, for example by adopting a policy of stating that we will all strike if any housing workers are disciplined for refusing to implement the bedroom tax.
Now, to be clear I am not opposed to advising workers factually on what their legal rights are. And this is something I do myself on a regular basis. However, by just instructing members to enforce the bedroom tax, and not even try to make any attempt to practically oppose it, Unison nationally is once again showing itself to be on the side of the government and employers against both public sector workers and the working class people who will be hurt by this tax.
And it is only by us organising together as a class to defy the government, the employers and the unions if necessary that will give us the best chance of defeating this tax.