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Union warns of grassroots pressure ahead of pay talks

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One of the local government union leaders has warned its members are pushing to break away from national pay bargaining ahead of crucial negotiations this week.

Employers are set to meet with union representatives on Thursday in the latest stage of pay negotiations. Talks will focus on the hourly rate for the lowest paid workers and a 1% pay offer.

Ahead of the talks, the GMB has warned that some local branches are pushing to move to local pay negotiations as they believe they can achieve better outcomes.

The union announced on Friday that Nuneaton & Bedworth BC had signed an agreement with GMB and the other trade unions to pay a minimum rate of pay of £7.65 per hour from 1 April 2014.

Paying the Living Wage is not part of national negotiations but is agreed by individual councils.

Brian Strutton, national secretary for public services, said: “We’ve had calls to let them off the leash because some feel they can negotiate a better deal. We’ve resisted it but those calls are getting increasingly loud.”

Unison said it remained committed to national pay bargaining.

Unite told LGC it would enter this week’s talks “in good faith” with national employers to end what it described as “poverty pay” before considering any move to local negotiations. It would seek agreement to its demand of a £1 an hour increase.

A spokesman said: “There are some councils that have moved to address poverty pay. It’s a case of seeing what the national agreement comes back with.”

Employers have already warned that with local government budgets under severe pressure there is no scope for a pay deal above 1%.

Harry Honnor, LGA principal negotiator, said councils had no appetite to move away from national pay negotiations, in part because there was a cross-party consensus.

“We’re not getting any sense of councils wishing to depart from national pay bargaining,” he said.

“The employers hope to formally respond to the union [pay] claim within the next week. Employers have brought forward their meeting by six weeks to avoid unnecessary delays to negotiations.”

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