The three main local government unions have today (Friday) called on employers to speed up the pay offer process, so council and school staff don’t have to wait months for the wage rise due in the spring.
UNISON, GMB and Unite – which between them represent 1.4 million council and school employees – have called for a substantial increase to redress a decade of cuts and recognise the role played by staff in the pandemic.
But they have been told a 2021/22 rise will not even be considered until after the local elections on 6 May, despite staff being due a wage increase from 1 April.
In a joint letter to local government employers, the unions have demanded an explanation for the delay, pointing out that all councils already know their budgets for the financial year ahead.
The three have also called for discussions to start on the pay offer as soon as possible.
In the letter they say: “After years of falling real pay, staff urgently need a decent pay increase that begins to reward them fairly for the vital work they do. This delay is simply unfair.”
The three unions have submitted a pay claim for a rise of at least 10% for all council and school support employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Under the claim, the pay of the lowest paid workers would go above £10 per hour – lifting them above the real living wage of £9.50 per hour (outside London).
UNISON head of local government Jon Richards said: “There’s no reason for employers to delay. Councils know their budgets so staff who’ve been through the mill over the past year shouldn’t be left waiting months for a wage rise.
“Many local authority and school workers have faced risks keeping the country running during the pandemic.
“A prompt, decent pay rise will boost flagging morale, recognise the efforts of those who continue to give everything to keep communities safe and benefit local economies.”
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “Key workers who have been working throughout the pandemic putting themselves in harm’s way, shouldn’t be told they have to wait for pay justice.
“At every step the government and employers have treated workers as an afterthought.
“It’s not on, it’s time for the government and employers to prioritise them by giving them a decent pay uplift for all the hard and risky work they’ve been doing.”
Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “This is a blatant lack of respect for a dedicated, loyal workforce.
“It is a disgrace to make the lowest paid workers across the public sector wait three months before these employers condescend even to consider their claim, especially given the efforts made to keep services running through the pandemic.
“Currently two pay bands fail to meet the ‘living wage’ benchmark which is a scandal, with too many workers reliant on ‘in work’ benefits.”