Unison has reversed its decision to recommend members reject a 2% pay offer to most council workers after the result of the first consultation was deemed too close to be conclusive.
In a briefing to members by Unison national secretary for local government Heather Wakefield, seen by LGC, she said 50.44% of members voted to reject the offer, with 48.66% in favour of accepting it.
However, overall 62.4% of branches and eight of 11 regions voted to accept the offer.
She said since the offer has been narrowly rejected overall, but accepted by the majority of branches and regions, Unison members of the National Joint Committee (NJC) had “reluctantly” agreed to “amend its recommendation to acceptance of the pay offer”.
Unison will now consult “branches via regions” on the revised recommendation, with a result expected soon after a deadline for responses on 5 April.
Ms Wakefield added: “Branches are not being asked to re-consult members on the pay offer but seek member feedback on the NJC Committee’s question as best they can in the timescale given.”
Last week members of the GMB union voted overwhelmingly to accept the pay offer made in December by the National Employers, who negotiate pay on behalf of the majority of councils in England.
The response of Unison members is likely to prove decisive as the union represents the largest number of local government workers.
The pay offer would mean the majority of staff, which is those earning an annual salary of £19,430 or more, would receive a 2% pay rise from April 2018 and a further 2% rise in April 2019.
It also includes the introduction of a new national pay spine on 1 April 2019.
The Local Government Association said the offer will result in an increase to the national pay bill of 5.6% over two years, once the new national living wage is factored in.
In June unions submitted a request for a 5% pay increase for all council staff in 2018-19, which would add an extra £559m to the sector’s wage bill if met in full.
Conservative members of negotiating body National Employers in December voted against breaking the current 1% pay cap but the 2% offer backed by Labour and an independent was approved by the casting vote of the chair, Luton BC deputy leader Sian Timoney (Lab).
Tory members warned at the time that the 2% pay offer to most staff could force further cuts to jobs and services.
LGC research found most councils had not factored a proposed 2% pay increase for the majority of staff into their budgets for next year, with many reporting the implementation of a new wage structure will place significant pressure on their finances.
A decision by the National Employers on a 2% pay claim made by Association of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers (Alace) in January was delayed pending the outcome of the unions’ consultations.