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Unions request 5% pay increase for workers

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Unions have 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 it was met in full.

The request, lodged today with the national employers which negotiates pay on behalf of councils, is considerably more than the 1% increase unions agreed to for the financial years 2016-17 and 2017-18.

It comes at a time representatives from Unison, GMB, and Unite, as well as the national employers, are working together to try and develop a new structure for the sector’s pay spine. Councils were already being warned that alone could increase pay bills by up to 6% on average but this pay claim comes on top of that.

The claim for the year from next April seeks to move the lowest paid staff onto the real living wage of £8.45 an hour, or £9.75 in London. Unions said that is “in addition” to the 5% pay rise for all staff.

The claim follows eight years of government-imposed pay restraint which has seen wages either frozen or held to a 1% increase, the unions added.

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said “many council employees and their families are struggling to keep afloat”. 

“New recruits and experienced staff are essential for the smooth running of services,” she said. “Yet poverty pay means local authorities are struggling to attract and hold on to staff, and those left are doing more for less.”

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services, said workers in local government were “suffering the worst squeeze on their pay in living memory” which was “contributing to a public sector recruitment and retention crisis that is undermining the quality of services”. She said the pay claim was “vital” and added the general election result was “a clear vote for a new approach and against the running down of public services”. 

Unite national officer for local authorities Fiona Farmer said: “Theresa May and the employers need to recognise the loyalty local government workers have shown in the face of savage cuts and begin to address poverty pay by accepting this pay claim.”

Responding to the pay claim, Sian Timoney, chair of the national employers, said: “We will be consulting with councils in the coming weeks on pay across the workforce and in particular how we can meet the challenge of the government’s proposed level of the national living wage over the next few years. The unions’ claim will form part of the consultation.

“We recognise that public sector workers have had lower than average pay awards for a few years now, but local government continues to face significant financial challenges so we are surprised that the unions are seeking such an ambitious pay award. Local government has lost more than half a million jobs in recent years and meeting this claim would result in many more such job losses.”

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