Unions Demand 6% Pay Rise For Council Workers

Union leaders were locked in pay talks today aimed at facing down attempts to impose a pay cap on council workers, after warning of industrial unrest if their 6% claim is not met.

Officials from Unison, the GMB and Unite hope to persuade the Local Government Association to back their claim for 1.5million local government workers and reject government attempts to cap public sector pay deals at 2%.

They claim any such cap would amount to a pay cut as shop prices run ahead of inflation.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government for Unison, said: “We are going into these pay talks hoping for a fair pay offer.

“We have put forward a very strong case to support our 6% claim and today’s rise in the CPI [consumer price index] to 2.5% makes that claim even stronger. The employers cannot stick their heads in the sand when economists are predicting that the CPI will rise to 3% by mid-summer.

“The world-class public services envisaged by the chancellor in last weeks’ budget demand decently paid, well motivated staff. Local government is in danger of falling back into a recruitment and retention crisis with workers tempted by better pay in the private sector.”

Last year council workers pulled back from the brink of strike action after their pay offer was increased to 2.5% in September.

But in last week’s budget the chancellor, Alistair Darling, insisted that this year the cap on public sector pay would remain at 2%.

The unions are asking for 6% for all grades in local government in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – including binmen, social workers, cleaners, nursery nurses and librarians.

Workers were lobbying today’s pay talks. Brian Strutton, the national officer of GMB, said the unions expected a better offer.

“Last year’s local government pay negotiations were a shambles and we narrowly avoided industrial action. This year we expect a decent offer that will reflect the true cost of living with bottom loading to further support low paid council workers, otherwise we can predict serious discontent which has industrial and political ramifications.”

Peter Allenson, Unite’s national officer, added: “The chancellor is upbeat so his confidence should shine through to these pay talks.

“We want to see serious progress towards giving our members, the vast majority of whom are women, a pay rise which reflects the cost of living in the real world.”