'Disappointed and angry'

Council and school staff deserve increased pay offer, say unions

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Unions representing council and school support staff have today (October 15) urged employers to return to pay talks with an improved offer as they prepare for industrial action over “inadequate” pay proposals.

Months of disruption to local government services could lie ahead, but the unions say councils have it within their gift to prevent community services being badly affected if they give workers the proper pay rise they deserve.

Unite, UNISON and GMB – between them representing 1.4m council and school staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – have written to the local government employers asking them to return to the negotiating table to improve the 1.75 per cent offer the unions say has left staff “disappointed and angry”.

In consultation exercises held by each of the unions, an overwhelming majority of workers who took part voted to reject the offer. Unite, UNISON and GMB are now preparing industrial action ballots, asking workers to vote for strike action in support of their pay claim.

In the joint letter, the unions say, “Over the last year these key workers have shown how indispensable they are, going over and above to provide essential services, often putting their own health and safety at risk.

“The 1.75% offer is wholly inadequate, and with inflation high and rising, it represents another real terms pay cut for workers who have seen a quarter of the value of their pay wiped out since 2010.”

In February the three unions submitted a pay claim of at least 10% for all council and school support employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This would have ensured pay for the lowest paid workers went above £10 per hour, more than the real living wage of £9.50 per hour (outside London).

The unions say many local authorities had already budgeted for a larger pay increase than the one on offer, and that extra money from the government should be used to provide a decent rise.

They are also asking employers to work with them to lobby ministers in Westminster for more local authority funding.

Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said, “Local government workers suffered more than a decade of real terms wage cuts before the pandemic hit.

“Now, as thanks for their service during Covid-19, the local government national employers want to hand them another,” he added.

“Unless a better offer is forthcoming, Unite will be asking members at councils across the country to vote for strike action.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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