Socialist Worker

Council workers are fed up of 'peanuts' pay

by Judith Orr
Issue No. 2389

Workers slam their “Cinderella” wages on a protest in South London

Workers slam their “Cinderella” wages on a protest in South London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Local government workers across Britain joined protests for a decent pay rise on Tuesday of this week.

Members of the Unison, GMB and Unite unions are united in the campaign to demand an end to poverty pay. Over 1.6 million workers in local government have had their pay frozen for three years after 2010. Last year they received a measly 1 percent rise. 

After inflation, that adds up to a pay cut of almost 18 percent—­bringing workers’ real income to the lowest level since the 1990s.

As many as 500,000 local government workers earn less than a living wage of £7.65, or £8.80 in London.

“Lots of people in our building department are using food banks,” said Phoebe Watkins, Camden Unison branch secretary. “If that’s not a indictment of public sector pay restraint I don’t know what is.”

Demonstrations were set to take place in many towns and cities.

“Firefighters, tube workers and teachers are all joining our protest this evening,” said Phoebe. “It’s important we link the fights and make demands. Enough is enough.”

Unison members in Nottingham County Council set up a lunchtime soup kitchen as part of their protest.

They handed out mugs with packet soup and no hot water to represent workers in hardship, on low pay and relying on food banks. 

“Compared to the handouts for the rich, what we’re on is peanuts,” said Martin Sleath, Notts County Council Unison joint branch secretary.

“We deserve a living wage. This is just the start of the campaign. Protests are good but we need to demand a ballot for national strikes.”

Protesters also stuffed postcards demanding a pay rise into the mouth of a George Osborne effigy—“give Osborne a mouthful” was the slogan.

Around 25 workers protested at Kirklees Council in Huddersfield.

The unions are demanding a raise of £1 an hour for everyone, and a minimum increase of £1.20 for the lowest paid to be brought up to the level of the living wage.

Bosses are due to respond to the union’s claim later this month.  

Since the Tories came in, workers in Britain have seen the biggest fall in real wages since records began 50 years ago.

Local government workers are some of the lowest paid in the public sector. 

Councils have seen around 40 ­percent of their funding slashed. Almost two thirds of them have cut car allowances, forcing many workers to subsidise travel they do as part of their work. Some have imposed unpaid holidays or cut annual leave.

More than 75 percent of workers affected are women.

If local government bosses don’t cough up then unions need to escalate their action to make them pay.

Workers spoke in a personal capacity


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