Local government workers to suffer third year of pay misery

UNISON, UNITE and GMB, said today that even more local government workers will fall into the trap of poverty, as the local government employers confirmed that they would impose a pay freeze for the third year running. More than 1.6 million workers will be hit, even those on the lowest wages who will not get the £250 minimum increase promised to them in Chancellor George Osborne’s June 2010 budget – for the second year in a row.

A survey by UNISON earlier this week, revealed that pay in the sector has already been slashed by 13% in the last three years alone*, which has contributed to stripping wages down to 1990’s levels. More than a quarter of the workforce now earn less than the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour, and many are forced to rely on benefits and tax credits to keep their heads above water. Any change in their family’s situation can drag them into poverty. At the same time, Chief Executive pay in local government has risen by a massive 59% between 1998 and 2007**.

UNISON head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “Many local government workers are in work, but in poverty. It is a disgrace that their pay will be frozen for the third year running – forcing even more into the poverty trap. Many of them will be women working in vital jobs in our local communities – like caring for the elderly, or for young children, or helping the vulnerable.

“Not even the lowest paid in local government will get the £250 increase the Chancellor promised them – they didn’t get it last year either. Families can no longer cope. This cannot go on – councils do have other choices such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves. The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid.”

Unite national officer, Peter Allenson, said:  “Local government workers are under sustained attack. Staff have endured a decade of below inflation pay increases and freezes. Now attacks on pensions, conditions and massive job cuts have heaped misery upon misery.

“It is time that local government employers face the fact that they have a crisis on their hands. Failure to act will push even more workers into poverty and damage local government services. Staff need a substantial pay increase this year. Unite will be meeting its activists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and fully supports its members in any action they are prepared to take for pay justice.”

Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary, said:  “GMB members will be devastated at the news they have to make ends meet without a pay rise for the third year running. The Chancellor promised that low paid public sector workers would get some protection against the cuts – so will he reign in the Conservative-controlled council leaders who have made a mockery of that promise?

“This 3-year pay freeze is not an austerity measure, it is a deliberate political choice by local government politicians who want to win votes by keeping pay at poverty levels to fund council tax freezes. Council leaders and chiefs who vote themselves ever higher allowances and salaries are a despicable bunch and rank as the very worst employers I’ve ever come across.”

Notes to editors:
*Pay has been slashed by 13% between April 2009 and Feb 2012 – taking into account inflation and the pay freeze.
**According to Audit Commission figures.

UNISON (National News Release) – Tel: 0845 355 0845