Leaders of 1.6 million council workers have lodged a claim for a “modest” pay rise of at least £250 next year and a review of their working conditions.
Unison, the GMB and Unite said council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should not have their wages frozen for a second year.
Heather Wakefield, of Unison, said: “Councils can afford this small increase. They have billions in their reserve funds stashed away. Surely this is the rainy day they’ve been saving for? There is also enough money to keep services running - but many council workers are in constant fear of losing their jobs.
“At the same time they are working harder than ever to help the local communities they work in pick up the pieces after the recession.”
Peter Allenson, of Unite, said: “Last year the employers implemented a pay freeze, but when inflation was taken into account, it was a pay cut in real terms.
“Locally, employers have been targeting the workforce by reducing shift and overtime payments, including members of staff that deliver home and personal care.
“We have reached the stage, in many cases, where local government staff can go and work in their local supermarket and receive better pay and conditions. Unite demands that this callous treatment stops now and the first step is for the employers to pay this claim in full.”
GMB official Brian Strutton said: “GMB members working in councils throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland are depressed and demoralised by the threat of thousands of job losses. They have just had a pay freeze imposed on them in 2010 meaning a 5% real terms pay cut over the last two years.
“With pay rates now only 37p above the national minimum wage it really is becoming difficult for council workers to make ends meet and tens of thousands of them are on benefits. For all these reasons our members need a reasonable pay rise in 2011.”