Council workers to ballot on industrial action over pay

Pay awards remain at 1%

A “derisory” pay offer of 1.75% for council workers has prompted union Unite to ballot its 70,000 members on whether they should take industrial action, including the option to strike.

The decision to hold the consultation follows the Local Government Association’s proposed 1.75% pay rise for council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for the year 2021/22, with 2.75% for those on the lowest pay point. The ballot will run from 1 September to 4 October.

Unite condemned the council employers’ offer as “contemptable”, and warned that anger was mounting across the public sector at what it described as an attempt by the Treasury to supress wage increases for key staff, while ignoring the sacrifices public sector workers have made during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. He called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to increase funding for councils to enable them to raise their pay offer.

The latest figure is an improvement on an original one of 1.5% made earlier this year. Council employers insist this is the most they can offer at this time. However Unite said this week it is still not enough. It is calling for a pay increase of 10% for council employees.

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for local government, commented: “Our members have made a huge contribution to keep public services running during the continuing Covid crisis – they have been the glue that have held the fabric of our society together at a time of national emergency.

“They have kept schools open, cared for our elderly, ensured the bins are emptied regularly, buried our dead and kept our libraries functioning – but this offer of 1.75% is an insult and way below the RPI rate of inflation, currently standing at 3.8%.”

He said council workers had seen more than 20% wiped from their pay packets due to government cuts over the past decade, adding that they are “furious at this derisory pay offer.”

Naomi Cooke, head of workforce at the Local Government Association, said: “The national employers, who are all senior elected members drawn from councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, are acutely aware of the added impact that the pandemic is having on councils’ budgets and future financial stability. This is why their improved offer is final; it represents the limit of affordability for most councils.”