Public sector unions have kicked off negotiations over local government pay for 2009-10 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by demanding that wage increases at least match inflation.
Representatives from Unison, GMB and Unite met with Local Government Employers today to submit their joint pay claim, which includes an additional salary increase for the lowest paid. The claim covers all grades across council departments.
The exact figure submitted for wage increases will be set nearer the close of negotiations, based on the level of retail price index (RPI) inflation at the time. Unison said it hoped the claim would be settled by April.
RPI inflation, which is based on the cost of a range of goods such as food, petrol and housing, currently stands at 3% and has fallen dramatically over the last few months. This has led to GMB ending its local government pay dispute in Scotland over employer body Cosla’s offer of 3% for 2008-9 and 2.5% for 2009-10.
Hit by below-inflation rises
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said that council staff had been hit by below inflation pay awards over the last few years despite increased efficiency savings.
She added: ‘As the worst effects of the credit crunch reach our communities, the first line of defence will be provided by local council staff, but they remain some of the lowest paid workers in the public sector.’
GMB national secretary Brian Strutton accused council chiefs of being on a ‘gravy train of greed’ by awarding themselves large pay rises while the majority of staff were offered sub-inflation awards. He continued: “The inequality has got to stop and that’s why GMB says 2009 must be the year of fair pay for council staff.”
The pay dispute over the 2.45% offer for 2008-09 is still undergoing arbitration via Acas.