Clashes over pay and regrading

Local government leaders and unions have started negotiations about this year’s pay claim

Unison, the GMB and T&G have put in for 5 per cent or £1,000, whichever is greater, and a minimum of £6.30 an hour. It is also asking for a 35-hour week and annual leave entitlement to be a minimum of 25 days.

Negotiations are yet to start but with the Chancellor Gordon Brown¹s desire to hold down pay in the public sector to 2 per cent and fears of rising inflation, any agreement looks set to the product of along and hard process.

Heather Wingfield, Unison’s head of local government, says that the rise is necessary to overcome poor pay deals in the past and low morale in local government. She adds that any attempt to hold to 2 per cent by the employers will “have a devastating effect” on morale and on staff recruitment.

A spokesperson for local government employers said that there will have to be tough choices about services and pay as councils were aware of the need to pay staff competitive salaries

Single status

Along with the national claim, there have also been several disputes recently related to the single status regarding or groups of social services staff in local government.

* Workers at Falkirk took their Council to court in a bid to review the single status regrading and the loss of earnings after negotiations had taken six years. Four hundred workers were to have their pay cut, in some cases up to £10,000 a year; the Council had given staff until the end of December to sign up to the new contracts or face dismissal.

Unison legal officer Peter Hunter said: “It is staggering that, after negotiating for six years and paying out millions in compensation, Falkirk Council still believe they can pay women less than men for work of equal value.²

The council said that only one out 10 staff would lose out and most had signed up to the agreement. And that the changes would be phased in.

The court of session will rule soon.

* Manchester mental health staff have also taken action over regarding with a one-day strike this month. Nurses and occupational therapists employed at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust fear a drop of up to £5,000 over regarding. There is also a dispute over the loss of 33 jobs.

* Approved social workers at Surrey Council won a £1,000 goodwill payment, overtime backdated to 1 January 2006 and future overtime payments for working past 5pm. The dispute had started in November with a work to rule.

Other staff at Surrey have also threatened action over a 2 per cent offer.

*  Social care staff at Southampton have been put on strike twice this month. Up to 240 care staff are protesting about cuts in pay particularly evening and weekend allowances. The council are trying to cut £400,000 from care staff wages.

* Last year, council leaders called on the government to relax borrowing requirements to enable local authorities to implement the single service agreement.

A report by Local Government Employers said LGE said current borrowing limits to implement back pay settlements of £200m were too low with one authority facing liabilities of £250m.

The report also called for independent arbitrators to monitor agreements between councils and unions to ensure authorities are not subsequently hit by mass equal pay claims at employment tribunals.

However, councils spending over the next few years will be determined by the comprehensive spending review later in the year. The common view is that their will be less money for councils and the need for greater efficiency savings, which makes unlikely that there will be more money for single status agreement settlements and to meet the claim of Unison and other local government unions.

Related articles
For more on the pay claim see Community Care’sPay and Dismay” feature

Interview with Unison’s Heather Wakefield



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