Council workers’ pay has fallen by 13%, says Unison

22 Feb 12
Below-inflation pay deals have slashed the value of council workers’ salaries to the level they were 20 years ago, Unison revealed today.
By Richard Johnstone | 22 February 2012

Below-inflation pay deals have slashed the value of council workers’ salaries, Unison revealed today.
Payslip local government

A study carried out for the union by the New Policy Institute shows that full-time wages have fallen by 13% in real terms over the past three years, as a result of a below-inflation pay rise in 2009/10 followed by a two-year pay freeze.

Living on the edge has been published ahead of the start of annual pay negotiations tomorrow between trade unions and Local Government Employers.

Chancellor George Osborne has called for public sector pay increases to be limited to 1% when the two-year freeze ends.

But Unison is today calling for a ‘substantial increase’ in pay to make up for the decline in living standards.

Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said employers ‘must come forward with a decent offer on pay this year’.

She said: ‘For many local government workers and their families, it’s a daily struggle to stay out of poverty. They’re doing vital work caring for the elderly, the vulnerable, for young children, and as job cuts hit, they’re picking up the pieces doing even more, for ever diminishing wages. It’s bad news for families, local economies, and for community services.’

The study also found that council chief executive pay had risen by 59% between 1998 and 2007.

Report co-author Peter Kenway, director of the New Policy Institute, said typical full-time hourly earnings in local government had sunk back to the levels of the early 1990s, while hourly earnings of part-time staff had fallen to 2002 levels.

More than a quarter of town hall staff now earn less than £7.20 an hour and have to rely on benefits and tax credits, Kenway said.

He added that continuing high inflation meant earnings would fall further still.

‘Local government workers are portrayed as part of a pampered public sector.  With two thirds of them in manual or clerical jobs, doing important and sometimes essential jobs, this report shows what a distortion that picture is.

‘Since the last time pay went up, in April 2009, prices have risen by 13%. Everyone is feeling the pinch but a fall in living standards this big is much more than that.’

Union view

Tomorrow – February 23 – will see annual talks take place between Unison, GMB and Unite and Local Government Employers over pay for 1.7 million local authority NJC employees. Today, Unison releases Living on the edge – a report on local government pay written for us by the New Policy Institute. Its findings are shocking and should make the hair of every elected member, leader and mayor stand on end. Hopefully, it will also make them re-think their pay policies too – preferably before tomorrow.

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