'We are worth it'

Local authority workers demand a fair pay rise after a decade of austerity

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Unite members protested outside a meeting of the Local Government Association (LGA) today (January 21) in London to demand a pay rise for local authority staff, who’ve suffered significant cuts to pay and conditions under a decade of austerity.


Unite has put forward a series of demands to put right the pay injustice local government workers have faced over the last ten years, including the introduction of a real Living Wage of £10 an hour as well as a 10 per cent across the board pay rise.


Unite branch secretary for Greenwich council Danny Hoggan (pictured below) told UniteLive how the members he represents in the care sector and waste services in particular are among those hit hardest.


Danny told of how members overall have lost more than 20 per cent of their salary in real terms over the last decade.


“The LGA must begin to recognise low pay and their failure to give people a real wage increase for ten whole years – and the consequences of that,” he said. “It’s not an abstract concept. There’s a dire crisis in recruitment and retention, and low pay only exacerbates that. People simply cannot live on less than £10 an hour in London.”


Unite convenor for Leicester City council Ty Denton (pictured) said the situation is just as dire in the East Midlands.


“This has not just affected people’s pay packets – it’s affected the whole morale of the entire workforce,” he said. “Everyone is being asked to do in essence more work for less pay.”


Indeed, Unite has also included in its pay claim measures to tackle a long hours’ culture which has decimated morale and productivity levels. Among these demands is a two-hour reduction in the working week with no loss of pay and an additional day of annual leave.


“Members are under significant stress and strain,” Ty added. “Let’s face it – generally local authority workers are caring in nature. They aren’t in it for the salaries; they’re in it because they care about their communities. All they’re asking for is a fair wage rise for a fair day’s work.”


Danny, who works with adults with disabilities and also serves as Unite’s London and Eastern region chair on local authorities, explained how low pay impacts residents as well.


“Low-paid workers in home care, for example, whose service has been privatised and externalised, have a turnover of 60 to 70 per cent each and every year. That means people providing the care change on an almost weekly or monthly basis for those receiving the care. That can’t be good for anyone, especially for the most vulnerable people in our society.”


Unite national officer Ian Woodland called on the LGA to see sense and come to the table when pay talks begin next month.


“Our members over the last ten years have suffered in essence what is a 22 per cent pay cut due to no pay or cost-of-living increases across the whole sector,” he said. “When the LGA says it cannot afford pay increases, I saw we must turn the question around. Can our members afford to continue to take pay cuts? With the cost of living as it is, the answer is definitely not. They still have rent to pay and food to put on the table, along with everything else.


“Our pay claim is a sensible one,” he added. “The LGA need to invest in our local communities and make sure that we retain the highly skilled staff that we have.”


Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail agreed.


“Local government have been subjected to the deepest and most severe cuts during the Tory period of austerity,” she said. “The workforce are dedicated to caring for all areas of our community 24/7 for which they get little reward. Local authority workers have seen years of savage cuts to their pay and conditions and have fallen behind other UK workers in terms of take home pay.  Unite believe our local authority members deserve a significant, well-earned pay increase. They are worth it.”


Stay tuned on UniteLive for more updates when local authority pay talks begin next month.

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