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White collar Unison members have voted by more than two to one to reject strike action in protest at the employers'...
White collar Unison members have voted by more than two to one to reject strike action in protest at the employers' 1.5% pay offer. The union has now picked up the offer which was first made in April. The ballot decision follows acceptance of 1.5% by the manual workers last week. It means the two largest negotiating groups in local government covering more than 1.5 million people have settled at the government's public sector pay ceiling. Apart from the firefighters, the only council workers not to have settled yet are the three craft groups covering engineers, electricians and builders. They are expected to settle at 1.5%.

The manual worker settlement includes a commitment to pay part timers for bank holidays. The employers had to meet this part of the manual workers' claim to avoid potential challenges under equal pay legislation. The white collar ballot result was 82,546 votes in favour of a programme of six days all out strike and 191,133 against. The turnout was 52.1%.

The members had previously voted by 55% to 45% to reject the 1.5% which prompted a second ballot on strike action.

Unison's chief negotiator for local government, Dennis Reed, said the vote in favour of strike action would have been higher if Chancellor Kenneth Clarke's call for pay freezes in the public sector next year had come a few weeks earlier. Mr Clarke's comments came last month as the Unison ballot period was drawing to a close and the majority had already voted

'Despite all the pressures local government faces we still got 30% who were prepared to take strike action', said Mr Reed.

'The government should not feel that the administrative, professional, technical and clerical vote is necessarily going to carry forward to next year'.

The public sector unions were already working through the TUC to ensure they have a much more co-ordinated campaign of opposition to pay restraint next year, he said. The employers said they were not surprised by the ballot result. 'What does surprise us is that Unison has, once again, wasted its members' time and money on a strike ballot which no-one really believed they could win', said Employers' Secretary Charles Nolda.

Mr Reed refuted the charge saying: 'Sometimes the price of democracy is high. We have found out exactly what our members want to do and everybody has been involved in the decision making process'.

Association of Metropolitan Authorities Assistant Secretary Stephen Bubb said: 'How many more times are the leadership going to run a ballot and get overturned by members? This was a NALGO ballot - hopefully Unison will learn the lessons and in future show some leadership'.

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