Oxford City Council has negotiated a local pay deal which guarantees a “cost of living” increase of 1.5% a year for five years after national pay talks failed to produce a pay rise for the past three years.
The authority’s agreement, which was backed by the vast majority of union members, was brokered following concerns about the three-year freeze in local government pay - and comes as national negotiators’ hopes of finding early agreement on how to avoid a fourth year of pay freeze lie in tatters.
Oxford’s deal, which was backed by more than 90% of Unison members and more than 80% of Unite members, assures staff of a cost of living increase for five years and extra pay depending on individual pay and performance.
Chief executive Peter Sloman said: “The new deal provides stability for council finances and staff pay. It sets pay at a level which secures the council’s budget provision and it will enable us to manage a 30% funding cut from central government without cutting services or jobs.”
Two years ago Oxford signed a deal with staff which scrapped annual increments and introduced a “partnership payment” conditional on the council meeting efficiency targets and individual performance.
Mr Sloman, left, described the initial deal as “a milestone in local government at the time” and said it had protected jobs, increased productivity by 20% and halved staff sickness. However, both the council and unions were concerned about the impact on staff of the national pay freeze in the two years of the agreement to scrap increments.
Unison branch secretary Caroline Glendinning said: “We didn’t realise, when we negotiated the last pay agreement, that the national body that sets annual cost-of-living pay rises would freeze pay levels for the last three years. It isn’t in the interests of staff or the council for this situation to continue and this new agreement will help with this”.
“The new deal will mean that, for the next five years, pay will be set locally in Oxford. The annual cost of living increase in the new deal is less than inflation but, in these uncertain times, it gives staff more wage certainty than they would have otherwise”.
At the national level, negotiations have “stalled” according to one union source who said hopes of securing an early agreement had proved groundless with another meeting unlikely until later this month.
When the unions submitted a pay claim for a “substantial” pay rise in October, the employers’ side said it wanted to avoid a fourth year of pay freeze, called for reform of unspecified terms and conditions and emphasised the need to begin talks as soon as possible.
However, initial meetings with unions failed to find agreement and the employers are currently discussing options with regional employment bodies.