Local government staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive a 2.75% pay increase for 2008-9 after arbitration body Acas decided employers should up their previous offer.
Unions Unison, GMB and Unite have hailed the move, which is binding on both sides. However employers, who offered 2.45%, have warned that funding the extra 0.3% would require job cuts.
The award, which brings to an end a protracted dispute that included a two-day strike last year, has been backdated to 1 April though staff have already been paid an increase of 2.45% for the year.
Recognition of low pay
In a joint statement welcoming the decision, Unison, GMB and Unite said Acas had recognised that council staff were among the lowest paid in the public sector and had been affected significantly by the recession.
The unions said: “We have always argued that local government workers have become the poor relations of the public sector. They have contributed enormously to improving local services and meeting council efficiency targets and they deserve a better deal.”
However, Local Government Association chair Margaret Eaton said: “The additional pay award defies common sense and will be a devastating blow to council workers who will see jobs shed to balance the books.
Jobs will have to go
“We are not prepared to pass this cost onto council taxpayers, so it will be jobs that have to go. Councils, like everyone else, have tightened their belts to weather the recession and the news that the arbitrators have awarded an additional 0.3% increase is an extremely bitter blow.”
Unison and Unite took strike action last July over employers’ 2.45% offer, which fell well short of unions’ 5% claim.
The 2.75% award is below the latest figure for inflation of 3%, under the government’s consumer price index measure. However, the CPI has been as high as 5% during the 2008-9 financial year, to which the pay award relates.
The CPI is predicted to fall further due to the economic slowdown, while the broader retail price index measure, which includes housing costs, has already fallen to 0.1%.