FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WEDNESDAY 17 OCTOBER
LOCAL GOVERNMENT PAY CLAIM CALLS FOR FAIR PAY
The public sector pay freeze has gone on long enough, and it is time for the assault on the living standards of local government workers to end, unions warned today.
UNISON, Unite and GMB, who together represent 1.6m local government workers, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are today submitting their pay claim to the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC), calling for a substantial increase to deliver fair pay for their members. Care workers, librarians, school dinner ladies, teaching assistants, bin men and street cleaners are among the council workers who have been hit hard by the Government’s pay freeze.
The three-year pay freeze has been unique in the public sector, and the cumulative effect of this coupled with high inflation has meant that, since 2009, pay for the NJC workforce has fallen by a massive 13% across the board. In the meantime the cost of living has soared, with the cost of basics such as food and energy putting ever-increasing pressure on household budgets that are already stretched to the limit.
The aim of the pay claim is to restore pay levels, bringing them in line with inflation and the cost of living, with a long-term view to achieving a living wage as the baseline for NJC wages. However, it is not just the lowest paid who are suffering. Professional and technical jobs in the ‘squeezed middle’ are being paid less than their private sector equivalents with councils storing up trouble for future recruitment if they fail to face this reality.
UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said:
“The government’s cruel and relentless austerity agenda has gone far enough, and it is time for the assault on the wages of local government workers to come to an end. With this pay claim, our position is clear; it is high time for fair pay and that means a substantial increase.
“This three-year pay freeze has been unique to the public sector, and has seen wages in real terms driven down by 13%, while the cost of living soars. This situation should not be acceptable by anyone’s standards, and it certainly is unacceptable by ours.
“Our long-term aim is to see a living wage, on which families can live, not just exist, as the minimum standard for local government wages.
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary, said:
“Lodged on behalf of 1.6m workers, our claim for a substantial pay rise from April 2013 and progress towards a living wage is submitted before Councils set their budgets for next year in the expectation that we will break the pay freeze that has been imposed since 2010. Over that time staff have faced the double whammy of a 13% real terms pay cut and 200,000 job losses; showing that pay restraint doesn’t necessarily protect jobs. As a result local government pay starts at just £6.30 ph, only 11p above the national minimum wage and hundreds of thousands of council staff are relying on state benefits to make ends meet.
“Council leaders have already said they are preparing to make an offer to raise pay but at the expense of worsening terms and conditions. There is little to commend this ‘give with one hand and take with the other’ approach and I predict a rocky road ahead for these crucial negotiations.”
Unite national officer for local government, Peter Allenson said:
“It is clear that many local authority employers have lost their moral compass by tugging their forelock to this austerity-obsessed government. Council workers have seen their take home pay slashed by 13 per cent since 2009, while household bills have soared.”
“Three years of pay freezes – in effect, large pay cuts – have been compounded by some authorities not even paying the £250 pounds due to those earning below £21,000 – those employers have even out-Scrooged George Osborne, which is quite a feat.
“The case for a substantial pay rise next year is unanswerable and is reinforced by the fact that some employers are so ashamed with the employers’ national response that they have introduced the living wage locally, so their workers can put food on the table for their families.”