Local government pay: Unison considers strike ballot

Unison’s local government pay negotiators will meet today to consider the case for balloting members on industrial action on council employers’ 2.45% offer to staff for 2008-9.

They will examine the results of consultative ballots on the offer carried out by Unison’s local government branches across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which closed last week. Should most branches have rejected the offer, an industrial action ballot would be the logical next step.

Sustained action deemed necessary

However, Unison has already warned members they will need to consider taking “sustained and escalating strike action” to bring employers back to the negotiating table. Unison members backed strike action over last year’s local government pay offer, but the union did not proceed, judging that the majority in favour was too small to sustain action.

Also, like last year, the three main local government unions appear split over the issue. Unite and GMB are currently balloting members on the offer through branches, with results due by early June. While Unite, like Unison, is recommending its rejection, GMB has told members that it is the best offer that can be gained through negotiation. Last year, only Unison balloted members on industrial action after the other two accepted the offer of 2.475%.

“Little appetite” for strike action

GMB’s national secretary for public services, Brian Strutton, said there was “little appetite for industrial action” this year at a meeting of around 100 stewards last month, though added that the union woud consider an industrial action ballot if branches rejected the offer.

The offer, made in April, is well below the 6% claim made by the unions, and below the retail price index measure of inflation which was 3.8% in March. However, employers have stressed it is their final offer.

Ofsted strike

Meanwhile, an estimated 1000 Ofsted staff represented by Unison and civil service union the PCS will strike this Friday (16 May) in a dispute over pay. They will also work only to their contracted hours between 19 and 30 May.

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