Union leaders have given the go-ahead for a 48-hour strike involving 640,000 local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 16 and 17 July.
Local authority staff from Unison and Unite will join the picket lines after both unions rejected the employers’ offer of a 2.45% pay increase.
Unison’s industrial action committee today approved the negotiating body’s recommendation for a “sustained and escalating” programme of strike action involving 600,000 workers.
The decision came after Unite members voted three to one in favour of striking in a ballot, giving 40,000 workers the green light to strike. A statement from the union said the offer represented a “real-terms pay cut”, because inflation was now 4.3%.
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said the 2.45% offer would mean a “pitiful” £7.50 increase per week for 60% of members.
She warned local authorities and central government to expect a “sustained and escalating” programme of industrial action this summer after members voted 55% to 45% in a strike ballot.
Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, but years of pay cuts and recent hikes in fuel, food and housing costs has left them with little choice.
“The employers must realise that we mean business. They must also understand they can resolve this dispute by coming up with a decent offer. Our members are loyal public service workers and our case for fair pay is strong.”
Defending living standards
Peter Allenson, national secretary for the public sector at Unite, said his members “have voted for sustained action to defend their living standards”.
Both unions said the settlement failed to take into account recent rises in living costs, which have left workers out of pocket.
“The recent rise in living costs has meant that the average household has had to find an extra £1537 from the family budget in 2008, compared to 2007, to cover basic costs such as food and petrol,” said Allenson.
Local Government Employers, which represents councils in England and Wales on employment issues, reiterated its assertion that 2.45% was “our final offer”.
Strike action would have “serious implications for some of the most vulnerable in society”, a spokesperson said.
- Should social care staff join the strike? Have your say on CareSpace.
- Read Daniel Lombard and Adam McCulloch’s blogs on the case for strike action.
Unions split on pay offer as GMB accepts deal