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Unions collectively accept 2% pay offer despite split

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The 2% pay offer for most council workers will be implemented after two of the three main unions backed the proposal.

Yesterday Unison, which has the largest number of members working in local government, confirmed it had accepted the pay offer. The union last month reversed its decision to recommend members reject the offer after the result of the first member consultation was deemed too close to be conclusive.

Today Unite said it has “strongly” re-affirmed its decision to reject the offer but understood it would now be implemented because of the “collective majority decision” of the other unions.

A ballot of GMB members earlier this year resulted in 94% backing the offer.

The unions are due to meet on Thursday to discuss the way forward. A statement on the Unison website said talks would focus on reaching an agreement and “hopefully align our position”.

Meanwhile, a decision by the National Employers on a 2% pay claim made by Association of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers (Alace) in January, which was delayed pending the outcome of the unions’ consultations, is now due to be made early next week.

Responding to the developments in relation to the 2% pay offer for most council workers, Unite’s national officer for local government Jim Kennedy said the unions would not “allow the lack of generosity that motivated this below inflation offer to divide” the unions.

He said: “Unite’s local government national committee has this week strongly reaffirmed its rejection of the two year pay offer from the employers.

“However, we recognise the collective majority decision of the other unions and understand that this offer will now be implemented across local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

The pay offer will mean the majority of staff, which is those earning an annual salary of £19,430 or more, will 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 last year 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. Subsequent LGC research found most councils had not factored a proposed 2% pay increase for the majority of staff into their 2018-19 budgets, with many reporting at the time that the implementation of a new wage structure would place significant pressure on their finances.

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