Local government unions demand 5% pay hike

16 Jun 17

Three unions have called for a 5% increase in local government worker pay as figures reveal wages are being squeezed by inflation.

On Wednesday, Unison, Unite and the GMB, who between them represent more than 1.6 million local authority employees, submitted an improved pay claim for next year.

The claim for the year from next April seeks to move the lowest paid staff onto the real living wage of £8.45 an hour (£9.75 in London) and insists all employees should receive a 5% pay rise.

This follows years of pay freezes and an official 1% pay increase cap on public sector wages introduced by the previous Conservative government in 2015.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool yesterday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was willing to look at the public sector pay cap ahead of a meeting with the chancellor.

Hunt said he had “a great deal of sympathy for the case that nurses among others have made on the issue of pay”.

He added: "We have our budgets that we have to live within. But public sector pay is a matter for the chancellor, because it is a policy set across the whole of government.

"So, it is for the chancellor to decide what the approach is to public sector pay over the course of the Parliament."

Hunt said he would communicate the concerns about pay when he meets with the chancellor.

The call from the three unions comes as the Office for National Statistics highlighted earnings failing to keep pace with inflation and the continuing fall in the number of public sector workers.

Heather Wakefield Unison’s head of local government said: “Local government has the lowest paid workers in the public sector, and many council employees and their families are struggling to keep afloat.

“With every price increase, their standard of living gets worse.”

She warned that maintaining “poverty pay” would make it harder for councils to recruit and retain good staff.

A report in March from the Resolution Foundation issued a similar warning that the public sector pay cap was a serious concern for workers and would hinder the sector’s ability to attract employees.

Fiona Farmer, Unite’s national officer for local authorities, said local government workers in waste, refuse, maintenance, schools and leisure provide an “invaluable” service but cuts were making it harder for them to make ends meet.

She added: “Theresa May and the employers need to recognise the loyalty local government workers have shown in the face of savage cuts and begin to address poverty pay by accepting this pay claim.”

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services, said: “Enough is enough. Our vital and under-appreciated staff must get a pay rise of at least 5% to compensate for almost a decade of real-terms wage cuts.

“That is what they need and deserve.”

Responding to the calls, Sian Timoney,LGA chair of the National Employers, said the organisation would be consulting councils and unions about pay and the “challenge” of the government’s proposed national living wage.

She added: “We recognise that public sector workers have had lower than average pay awards for a few years now, but local government continues to face significant financial challenges so we are surprised that the unions are seeking such an ambitious pay award.

“Local government has lost more than half a million jobs in recent years and meeting this claim would result in many more such job losses.”

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