Local government pay talks have stalled after council employers made clear they are not in a position to improve on a 2% pay offer.Calling off talks scheduled for later this week, UNISON and the other two unions representing workers in the sector said: "Industrial action now looks inevitable."
At a meeting yesterday, UNISON, GMB and TGWU-Unite all reaffirmed their consistent rejection of 2%, which fails to match up to inflation or earnings increases across the economy. The three unions will meet again tomorrow to discuss preparations for a ballot on industrial action."Two per cent is wholly unrealistic," said Heather Wakefield, UNISON's head of local government. "Our members care for the public on a daily basis and are in dire need of far better pay and treatment."
Employers' failure to treat the pay negotiations seriously was nothing short of outrageous, said the three unions, slamming the "shabby and disrespectful treatment" meted out to workers.The bottom pay rate in local government of £5.80 an hour is the lowest in the public sector, and almost 300,000 women such as home carers, teaching assistants and residential care workers earn less than £6 an hour.
The 2% offer would add less than 12 pence an hour - or £4.50 a week - to the pay slips of the lowest paid.In February 2007, unions called for council workers to receive a 5% pay increase, or £1,000 a year, whichever was the greater. More than 60% of those covered by the pay claim earn just £15,825 or less, some £8,000 less than the national average. Seventy-five per cent of these workers are women.
Between 2004 and 2006 pay in local government rose by only 8.9%, falling behind the rise in national earnings and the huge increase in fuel, housing and living costs.Householders now have to pay on average £20 a week for electricity and gas - double what they paid in 2003. And the Industrial Relations Survey panel of experts expect average earnings growth to run at 4.3% during 2007.
Doncaster UNISON comment;
It should come as no surprise to our members that the employers and the Government are holding to this position. With Postal workers out on strike over pay today and other Public Sector unions including the PCS, NUT and Royal College of Nursing preparing to ballot for industrial action, we could be facing a summer/autumn of increasing temperatures on more than the weather!
UNISON and the other Local Govt. unions are absolutely right not to waste time on pointless talks that are going nowhere and Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary was spot on when he wrote to the PCS union conference stating that unions right across the public sector should stand together over pay and should coordinate industrial action for maximum impact.
As the article above states, it is now inevitable that we will move to a ballot for industrial action and this, depending on how UNISON members vote, will probably take place in the late summer. Doncaster UNISON believes that this will be a massively important issue to fight for the whole of the Public Sector. A 2% pay offer is an insult to every single hardworking council worker and means that Gordon Brown's government is offering every one of us and every public sector worker the first real terms pay cut in over 25 years, just as the cost of living shows every sign of getting more and more expensive.
Every one of us should begin to prepare for a ballot; talk to your colleagues and start to get organised; ask a union rep to organise a meeting in your workplace,and above all, when you get your ballot paper, encourage everyone you know to vote yes for determined action.