Unison head of local government Keith Sonnet called the figure derisory and said it was well below the level of settlements elsewhere in the labour market. Unison wants a rise of £1,000 per head, an increase of 12.2% for the lowest paid workers.
'Any offer made in the future anywhere near [2%] will not be the basis of a negotiated settlement,' said Mr Sonnet. In an attempt to keep negotiations going, and prevent the unions from balloting for industrial action, the employers avoided making a firm offer. But they said 2% was all they could afford.
GMB national secretary Mick Graham said a settlement at that level would cause major difficulties in service delivery. 'We are not prepared to accept, for the third year running, real cuts in pay,' he said.
The local authority associations are still consulting with employers on the pay round. They say shire counties and reorganising councils will be hardest hit by this year's pay rise.
'Local authorities want to be fair, and will give their staff the best rise they can afford without damaging job security and service provision,' said employers' secretary Charles Nolda.
The last settlement for local government's 1.5 million workers was a two-year deal worth a total of 4.5%.
Employers met demands for a minimum wage with threats of job cuts and contracts lost to the private sector. They are pushing for a percentage rather than a flat-rate increase, but said they would hear the unions' arguments on low pay.
T&GW national secretary Jack Dromey reacted angrily to the employers' statement that local government part-timers, the worst paid group of workers, are better off compared with other sectors than they have been for 25 years. 'Bogus comparisons with Burger King do not befit a good employer,' he said.