Socialist Worker

Local government workers must reject Gordon Brown’s pay insult

by John McDermott, Unison NEC (pc)
Issue No. 2066

The local government employers made a marginally improved pay offer to over a million local government workers last Friday.

The new offer is

  • 3.4 percent on the lowest hourly rate, raising this by 19p to £6 per hour.
  • 2.475 percent for all other workers.

There will be some who will think this is a good deal after the previously insulting 2 percent offer, but workers should not be deceived.

This is still not good enough for people delivering local services who have already saved the government over £1 billion in “efficiency” savings.

Full time workers on £14,000 per year will receive an increase of £6.66 per week.

The lowest paid, such as catering, cleaning and caretaking workers, will only receive an increase of £380 per year – £7.31 per week before tax.

The difference between the current offer and 2 percent is £3.75 per week for the highest paid and £3 per week for the lowest.

By any standards the offer is poor.

Inflation including house prices is still above 4 percent and has been for over 12 months, meaning this is still a pay cut. The average worker will also have to pay more pension contributions from next year.

Claim

The original pay claim is for 5 percent or £1,000. The latest offer is less than half that and only a few workers earning £40,000 per year will get an extra £1,000.

It was widely reported by employers at the start of negotiations that they had budgeted for a 2.5 percent pay rise – workers have waited four months to be offered what the employers appeared to be willing to offer in the first place.

We must not forget that local government workers are a significant part of the public sector workforce and what we do or accept will influence offers to other workers.

I am sure many workers across the country will have been encouraged by the postal workers’ massive strike action in rejection of a 2.5 percent pay offer.

If local government workers accept this latest offer then the postal workers will be left isolated.

Workers in the Department for Work and Pensions have been offered even less and will be looking to other big groups of workers to set the benchmark.

Health workers are currently being consulted on a miserly offer totalling 2 percent, shamefully without a recommendation to reject from senior Unison officials.

Local government workers should not allow themselves to be dragged into another extended period of consultation, which suits the employers and those who wish to prevent or delay action.

Unison local government conference in June made it clear that any offer of 2.5 percent or below was not acceptable.

An emergency Service Group Executive should be called to reaffirm conference policy and we should move to an industrial action ballot as soon as possible.

The 81 percent rejection of the 2 percent offer will have focused the minds of the employers and government.

We need to focus it again by an equally big vote for strike action to gain an inflation-proof pay rise rather than a pay cut.


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