Unison has backed industrial action among local government staff over pay despite only a small majority of members rejecting the pay offer in a recent ballot.
It ordered a strike ballot last week and said that members would need to take “sustained and escalating” action to force employers to increase their 2.45% offer to council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, starting with a two-day strike in July.
However, the offer, which is well below the latest retail price index inflation figure of 4.2%, was only rejected by 54% of members who took part in a recent consultative ballot on a turnout of around one in five.
As the biggest local government union, strong support among Unison members will be crucial in a strike.
Urging members to back strikes
A Unison spokesperson said: “The ballot papers start to go out next week. We’re working as hard as we can to get a high turn-out and are urging members to vote yes. A majority of members in the consultative ballot voted to reject the pay offer, they understood that if they rejected the pay offer that there would be a strike ballot.
“The pay offer of 2.45% is clearly below inflation, and many of our members are low paid and will be feeling in their pockets the rising prices of fuel, food and housing costs.” The Unison ballot closes on 20 June.
Fellow union Unite will also ballot its members on strike action, after its members rejected the offer much more overwhelmingly than Unison counterparts – by a three-to-one majority. However, its presence in local government is much smaller than Unison’s.
GMB sceptical on action
GMB is currently balloting its members on whether to accept the 2.45% offer. National secretary Brian Strutton said: “Although we can’t positively recommend the offer because it’s not good enough, we are saying it’s the best that can be achieved through negotiation. Our representatives have told us that although our members aren’t happy, there’s no appetite for industrial action at the moment.”
Unison members in Scotland have shown greater support for action than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, with 80% rejecting their 2.5% pay offer in a consultation.
Unison local government pay campaign