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This year's local government pay negotiations were tough. There is still some way to go before the Advisory, Concil...
This year's local government pay negotiations were tough. There is still some way to go before the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service proposals become a deal and the alternative of a prolonged

period of industrial action are still a very real possibility. Certainly no one at Unison is showing the slightest signs of complacency as members are consulted.

But if, as we hope, the proposals do become a concrete deal we will be able to look back with some satisfaction on a very successful pay campaign. We will also be able to look forward to the proposed Pay Commission and its addressing some deep-rooted problems.

We have come a long way since the employers' first offer of 2.5% and their refusal to budge on the crucial issue of bottom loading.

Support from our members and the public for the strike on the 17 July exceeded everyone's expectations. It led to the intervention by ACAS and set the scene for the 7.8% offer and the breakthrough for the very lowest paid.

The two-year agreement will give the Pay Commission time to complete its work and influence pay negotiations in 18 months time.

To succeed the commission must address pay levels throughout local government. The scandal of 284,000

staff earning less than£5 an hour made good headlines during the dispute. But the

poor pay of librarians, social workers and other highly qualified staff also entered the public's consciousness for the first time.

Low pay among these groups is a major factor in the recruitment and retention

crisis facing almost every council.

Worryingly a recent NOP survey found 46% of local government workers would not recommend their career in local government to others. Broken down among specific departments the figures are even more worrying - 60% for housing officers, 59% for IT staff, 54% for social workers, and 52% for librarians.

We are confident we can persuade the Pay Commission, which will have an independent chair and the involvement of the Equal Opportunities Commission, to take the gender pay gap seriously. Five years ago the single status agreement promised to deliver equal pay. But without the extra resources needed progress has been painfully slow. Today women, who make up three-quarters of the workforce in jobs right across local government, earn on average just two-thirds of what their male colleagues do. This must change.

When we lodged our ambitious pay claim last December we said any settlement must address the long-term decline of local government pay. ACAS proposed the Pay Commission as an opportunity to do just that.

Malcolm Wing

National secretary, Unison

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