Workers From around Britain have been getting in touch with Socialist Worker in response to wage cuts in local government caused by the single status pay deal.
Mostly women workers, they are losing thousands of pounds in a process that is meant to achieve equal pay for women workers in local government.
The single status deal is hitting hundreds of thousands of workers, leading to a flood of court cases. It seeks to set worker against worker.
Yet the media hardly mention it and the unions are not doing nearly enough to confront the way it’s being implemented.
In Staffordshire one worker who is losing £180 a week wrote, “While we accept that there needs to be pay equality, the whole job evaluation process is flawed and appears to be a simple cost cutting exercise.
“One person in my department will be on a lower salary than the people she supervises after job evaluation.”
Another Staffordshire worker said, “People are considering selling their houses because of these cuts. I’ve seen people crying in the corridors saying they can’t pay their mortgages.
“We have people in top positions on incredible salaries. I wonder if they or the people who did this evaluation had their pay cut.”
A worker from Bristol said, “Our school’s local education authority is really getting me down at the moment.
“The letters to school support staff outlining single status include the reassuring words, ‘If you have not accepted the offer by the end of the year we will write to you again telling you that your contract will be terminated on 31 March 2007’.”
In Moray in Scotland, where unions have accepted the council single status proposals, a refuse worker was initially told that his wage was to be £18,000 per year – before another letter arrived stating his salary would actually be £15,500.
He said, “It’s a total disgrace, and people can do without this kind of thing.
“Stress levels are at breaking point.
“So far some of us received no letters at all, while others have received four letters.”
Another refuse worker in the council was also left confused and angry about his new contract after receiving three different letters.
“One said I was a Grade 1, another a Grade 2, but I’m actually a Grade 4,” he said.
“As Grade 1 is the lowest paid grade in the council, it meant that my salary would have dropped by about £7,000.”
An administration officer at a school in Burton has been told her salary will be cut from £15,000 to £11,000.
She told Socialist Worker, “I was stunned, gobsmacked. I’m furious and can’t understand where the council is coming from. And I’m not the worst affected – one colleague is set to lose £6,000.
“I could just sit down and cry.I’m 55 and a widow.
“I can’t meet my bills on the new salary they are proposing and will have to sell my house or get another job.
“What likelihood have I got of getting another one at my age?
“The place is like a morgue. It’s as though the heart has been torn out of it. All the non-teaching staff are totally aghast.”
The unions need a national strategy of fighting to defend the wages of all staff and levelling up those who have been discriminated against.
What is this single status agreement?
The single status deal at the heart of the current disputes was signed in 1997 by local government employers and trade unions.
Typically women were doing jobs of equal value to men working in refuse collection or maintenance, and had been on the same pay grade as them for many years.
But they were not eligible for bonus payments that some men received. Local authorities agreed they would equalise wages and conditions and in return trade unions let it be understood that tribunal cases would halt.
Because the government has not given funds to pay for equal pay, councils are robbing other workers to implement it.
Equal pay is a must, but it should not be at the expense of other workers.
Every authority is supposed to implement a deal by 1 April this year, but according to local authority employers only 34 percent of councils have reached agreements.