Unions prepare to fight for 5% rise

15 Feb 07
Local government trade unions are aiming to smash the Treasury's pay cap in the battle over town hall cash.

16 February 2007

Local government trade unions are aiming to smash the Treasury's pay cap in the battle over town hall cash.

Speaking at the February 14 launch of the annual pay claim for 2007/08, GMB national secretary Brian Strutton warned of a 'cocktail' of concerns in local government.

'If the offer is nowhere near our aspirations we know the workers are ready for a serious punch-up… They have been knocking at our door over the pensions dispute. We cannot rule out strike action.'

The unions are seeking a one-year 5% – or £1,000 minimum – increase in local government pay from April 2007, plus improvements to terms and conditions, including a rise in the annual holiday allowance from 20 to 25 days and a reduction in the working week from 37 to 35 hours.

Heather Wakefield, Unison's national secretary, acknowledged that the 5% claim was both above inflation and the latest average earnings increases of 4%. But she said the claim was in part a 'catch-up' on the below-inflation increases of the past three years.

The last settlement awarded local government employees an 8.9% increase over three years, significantly below average earnings increases of 12.4% and retail price inflation of 9.3%.

Wakefield added that the claim was particularly concerned with increasing wage levels for the 61% of mostly female employees who earn less than £15,825.

Increasing the local government minimum wage from £5.80 an hour (45p above the national minimum wage) to £6.32 was 'vital' if the recruitment and retention crisis in services such as social care were to be addressed, she said.

The unions argue that, although the 5% claim is above the nominal 2% cap requested by the Treasury, it is affordable. They estimate its cost at £1.5bn, less than half the £4.2bn efficiency savings local government has achieved in the past three years.

Strutton said: 'We were asked for efficiency savings. We have delivered efficiency savings. We've earned the right to a decent pay rise and we deserve a decent pay rise.'

Brian Baldwin, the chief negotiator for the employers, said any settlement would need to be both affordable and maintain local government as an attractive place in which to work.

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: 'The government… expects pay settlements to support the achievement of the 2% consumer price index inflation target.'


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