Pay demand completely unrealistic

24 Jan 02
Local government employers have slated the trade unions' pay demand and warned that it could make many authorities' in-house services too expensive to run.

25 January 2002

Charles Nolda, executive director of the Employers Organisation (EO), attacked the unions for failing to take into account economic realities when drawing up their claim.

He said the demand, which would mean an average pay rise of 11.7% and almost 20% for those at the bottom of the scale, could seriously affect authorities' ability to provide services in-house. The inevitable outcome would be greater use of outsourcing.

His organisation represents English and Welsh councils in the annual pay negotiations. Unison, the GMB and the T&G have demanded a pay rise of 6% or £1,750, whichever is the greater, for its 1.2 million members employed by local authorities.

'The claim is completely unrealistic. At a time when inflation has fallen below 1%, the unions are seeking to add 12% to the national pay bill,' Nolda said.

'To increase the bottom point of the scale by 19%, when it already outstrips the national minimum wage by 14%, would make many

in-house services irrevocably uneconomic.' Such a pay deal would cost councils £1.7bn, according to the EO.

A document published by the EO dismissed the claim by union leaders that such a deal would solve problems with recruitment and retention of staff. It said the problem occurs at managerial and executive level, not at the lower end of the pay scale. It also rejected suggestions that the claim addresses the pay gap between men and women, which it recognises is a problem.

'Existing discrepancies between men and women working in jobs of equal weight would not be narrowed,' Nolda said.

The EO is currently consulting councils on the unions' pay demand. It will give its formal response at the meeting of the National Joint Council, the forum for the negotiations, scheduled for February 6.

Malcolm Wing, Unison's head of local government, hit back at the EO's stance. He accused local authorities of using the Best Value regime and the increasing popularity of contracting out as a way of cutting their workers' terms and conditions.

'The sub-text to the employers' comments is that low pay is the answer, not the problem. We should continue to accept low pay because there are other cowboys out there willing to undercut what they pay. This is not a premise we accept. We are just pressing for a level playing field,' he said.


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