Arbitration service Acas will settle the longstanding pay dispute between council employers and unions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The GMB, Unison and Unite decided to refer the dispute to Acas for binding arbitration at a meeting last week, following protracted negotiations – punctuated by a two-day strike in July – over employers’ 2.45% offer for 2008-9.
Though employers have not been formally notified, they would be obliged to agree to arbitration, under the national agreement between unions and council employers. GMB national secretary for public services Brain Strutton said he expected the process to take two to three months. He added: “In the meantime it would be helpful for councils to pay their final offer ‘on account’ to help their employees cope with the rising cost of living.”
An employers’ spokesperson said they would abide by the final arbitration ruling but warned of possible job losses should Acas call for too large a pay increase. He added: “Basically, this year there is nothing in the kitty. The coffers are empty. If it were 6%, say, it would probably mean job losses.”
The two sides are next due to meet on Monday.
Meanwhile, council workers in Scotland went on strike today in protest at council employers’ organisation Cosla’s refusal to increase its 2008-9 pay offer from 2.5%. Unison estimated that around 150,000 workers participated, causing disruption to schools, nurseries, social care and other services.
Unison’s head of bargaining in Scotland, Glyn Hawker, said: “We anticipate that the vast majority of our social care staff were on strike, with the exemption of those providing life and limb cover.”
Unison indicated that further industrial action would be on the cards if the pay offer does not improve. Hawker added: “We’ve had no formal response from Cosla over the latest strike so far, but I have to say the indications from them have not been particularly positive.”
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