Unison is to advise its members to reject both pay rise proposals put forward by employers, in a bid to secure a better offer following local government’s three-year salary freeze.
The union’s leaders met on Wednesday to consider a proposal from employers which gave staff a choice between a 1% increase tied to terms and condition changes and a smaller increase involving no reforms.
Unison’s senior local government representatives are to advise branches to reject both proposals. They have also decided to consult members about a ballot for strike.
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said: “Our members have done their best to fill the gaps left by drastic government cuts, but they can be stretched no further.
“Once again they are being denied even the meagre reward for their efforts that was promised to all public sector workers by the chancellor.
“Local government is a bargain basement employer, with pay for thousands barely above minimum wage rates. After three years of no pay increase at all, enough really is enough. We hope the employers see sense and make an improved offer.”
Unions submitted a claim for a “substantial” pay rise in November arguing that a three year pay freeze had seen wage levels decline by 15% in real terms.
However, the employers’ side called for a pay rise to be accompanied by reforms to ‘Green Book’ terms and conditions which many councils have abandoned in a bid to reduce workforce costs.
As exclusively revealed by LGC, unions were presented with two options at a meeting last week.
For the first offer of a flat 1% pay rise for all, employers want current car allowance mileage rates to be replaced with the lower HM Revenue & Customs rate. They also want the unilateral arbitration agreement to be replaced by bilateral arbitration agreement, meaning the unions would not be allowed to call in arbitrators Acas without employer agreement.
The first option also includes an extra day of holiday and an improved deal for staff transferred out of council employment and then back again so they can claim continuous service up to 10 years rather than the current five.
The second option would see staff on spinal column points four to 10, those paid up to around £14,000 a year, receive a 1% increase while those on higher spinal column points would only receive 0.6%.
However, Ms Wakefield, left, criticised the offer as not even providing the capped 1% pay rise promised to other public sector workers.
“It is unclear where the employers have got their mandate for this derisory offer,” she said. “Almost 50 councils are now paying – or are pledged to pay – the Living Wage.
“Many others have publicly supported a no-strings 1% increase in line with government public sector pay policy. Councils not covered by the [National Joint Council pay bargaining framework] are paying at least 1% this year. Why middle earners like nursery nurses, social workers, customer service staff and engineers should be punished with a 0.6% offer is a mystery.”
As reported by LGC, some employers have also expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal because the changes to terms and conditions do not go far enough.
At least three councils are set to leave the national pay bargaining structure this year. Northamptonshire CC’s chief executive told LGC this was because the authority knew the LGA would not be able to “modernise” conditions fast enough.
Unite is due to discuss the offer at a meeting on Wednesday and GMB is due to discuss the options next week.