Unison has demanded a “substantial pay increase” for social care staff and other local government workers in 2012-13, to prevent more families being forced into poverty.
The union has not set out precisely what salary increases are acceptable. However, 5% is considered the bare minimum to take into account rising inflation and the two-year pay freeze council staff will have had by next April.
Unison, Unite and the GMB jointly lodged the claim, which affects council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the National Joint Council (NJC) on Friday.
It requests: “A substantial increase on all pay points that recognises the financial hardship being suffered by NJC workers – in particular the lowest paid – as a consequence of inflation and the failure of employers to award £250 to those earning below £21,000, as embodied in government policy.”
Last year, Local Government Employers rejected a claim for a pay rise of £250 for all council staff, including high earners.
The unions said workers had already suffered a real-terms cut of 11.6% as a result of the two-year pay freeze, with those earning less than £21,000 – nearly 70% of members – hit hardest.
They also claimed that, since the last pay rise in 2009, more than 314,527 members were having to cope on pay equivalent to less than the minimum wage and worse terms and conditions. In addition, 57,000 jobs were lost in the second quarter of this year and councils were cutting pay.
Recruitment and retention problems were now affecting local authorities, with 80% of councils reporting difficulties hiring social workers.
“While [private sector] directors enjoy huge pay rises, low-paid local government workers have suffered real financial hardship for two years and are struggling to make ends meet,” said Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government
“The cost of living has risen sharply, but their pay has stayed the same. If their pay is frozen for a third year and costs remain high, whole families will be pushed further into poverty.
“Council workers are already suffering from cuts to jobs and services, their terms and conditions are under attack at local level and the government plans to change their pensions, to make them pay more, work longer, for less. This is an unparalleled assault on those who are working harder for less to maintain vital community services.”
Peter Allenson, Unite’s national officer, said: “Local government employers are due for a wake-up call. There is increasing evidence that their workforce can no longer afford to work for them with pay cuts increasing workload and proposed increases to pension contributions.”
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “We’re not saying much more at this stage other than elected members will consider the details of the claim and respond based on what is affordable for councils, council taxpayers and the users of vital public services
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Social workers’ pay and conditions under attack