Local government employers must speed up the pay process so that council workers and school staff – who have sacrificed so much during the pandemic – don’t have to wait months longer for a pay rise.
The call came from the three main local government unions – Unite, GMB and Unison – which jointly wrote a letter to local government employers demanding to know why they were delaying a pay rise.
Earlier this month, the local government unions submitted a pay claim for 2021/22 of 10 per cent for all council workers and school support staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If awarded, the pay rise would take pay above £10 an hour for the lowest paid workers, lifting them above the real living wage outside London, which now stands at £9.50 an hour.
Unite and other local government unions have underlined that a substantial pay rise was appropriate to redress a decade of pay freezes and real-terms pay cuts under austerity, as well to acknowledge the key role they have played amid the pandemic.
But local government employers have now said that they would not even begin to consider pay rises until after the local elections on May 6, despite the fact that these essential workers are due a pay rise on April 1.
Unite, GMB and Unison have demanded an explanation for the delay, highlighting that councils already know their budgets for the year ahead.
“After years of falling real pay, staff urgently need a decent pay increase that begins to reward them fairly for the vital work they do. This delay is simply unfair,” the unions wrote in their letter.
Unite national officer for local authorities Jim Kennedy called the delay “a blatant lack of respect for a dedicated, loyal workforce”.
“It is a disgrace to make the lowest paid workers across the public sector wait three months before these employers condescend even to consider their claim, especially given the efforts made to keep services running through the pandemic,” he said.
“Currently two pay bands fail to meet the ‘living wage’ benchmark which is a scandal, with too many workers reliant on ‘in work’ benefits.”
Commenting when Unite and other local government unions first submitted their pay claim, Kennedy noted, “We are sick of the employers’ crocodile tears, refusing to recognise the contribution our members make in caring for the elderly and vulnerable. They are on the frontline, endangering their lives every day, but the response has been pay freezes, cuts to services and jobs.
“Ministers pledged to support local government, but words are cheap. The employers should show courage and demand the proper level of funding that is desperately needed, including a fair pay increase.”
Unite is backing the TUC’s Pay Rise for Key Workers campaign, which is calling on the government to give meaningful pay rises to all 4m public sector workers, and to raise the minimum wage to give an additional 2m key workers a pay rise.
Your support is instrumental in this campaign – find out more about how you can get involved on our campaign page here.
By Hajera Blagg