The government has been accused of duping low paid council staff into thinking they would receive a £250 pay rise in 2011-12.
Unison said chancellor George Osborne had “ditched” a commitment made in his 2010 Budget to protect local authority workers earning less than £21,000 from the upcoming two-year public sector pay freeze.
Osborne had promised a £250 flat pay rise to “the 1.7 million public servants who earn less than £21,000”.
But in his 2011 Budget, he revealed that the pay rise would only apply to the armed forces, prison service, NHS, teachers and civil servants.
“Osborne simply ditched his commitment to low paid council workers,” said Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government.
Local government pay is negotiated between employers and unions, but Wakefield said Osborne should be putting more pressure on councils to protect low paid staff.
In February, Local Government Employers rejected a pay claim from unions for a pay rise of £250 for all council employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
LGE said councils could not afford to increase pay, even for the lowest paid, because budgets were about to be slashed.
But Wakefield said: “The vast majority of councils are Tory-run.
“If George Osborne really wanted low paid workers to be protected from the pay freeze, he could send out guidance or advice telling council chiefs to pay the £250 rise.
“We know some of them – including in Osborne’s constituency – have already budgeted for it.”
Wakefield said trade unions were due to meet at the start of April to discuss their response to LGE’s “refusal to move”.
Some unions and councils have already negotiated a pay rise for low paid staff at a local level. In Southampton, where higher earners face pay cuts of up to 5%, all employees earning less than £21,000 will receive a flat £250 rise.
A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “We have made clear that we expect local government to show restraint on pay in line with the rest of the public sector as well as seeking to provide the lower paid with some protection from the impact of pay restraint.”
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