Unions will ballot local government employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on whether to take industrial action after it was revealed the majority will receive a below-inflation pay rise this year.
Unison, GMB and Unite submitted a claim last October for a £1 per hour pay rise for all council employees from 1 April.
The unions said this would bring the lowest paid workers – who are on £6.45 per hour – up to a rate roughly equivalent to the living wage (outside London) of £7.65.
However, Local Government Employers (LGE) has responded to the claim with an offer of a 1% pay rise for employees earning more than £14,880, including social workers.
Around 50,000 of the lowest paid local government workers will receive a slightly higher increase.
Sian Timoney, who chaired the employers’ side of the negotiations, said: “There is a broad consensus among councils that there should be a pay offer to staff this year.
“At a time when local government is tackling the biggest cuts in living memory, this offer balances our commitment to increase the pay of our hardworking employees with the responsibility we have to address the significant financial pressures we face.
“We believe that this is a fair deal for employees, given the limits of what we can afford, and a fair deal for the taxpayers and residents who use and pay for the vital services which local government provides.”
However, the unions called it a “slap in the face” for local government workers.
“This paltry offer of 1% is a pay cut in real terms as the RPI [Retail Price Index] rate of inflation is running at 2.8% – and it will continue to cement poverty pay for thousands working for local councils,” said Unite’s national officer for local government, Fiona Farmer.
“We will be consulting our members with a recommendation to reject this offer and industrial action by our members is very much on the cards.”
Unison’s head of local government, Heather Wakefield, added: “It is outrageous that the vast majority of local government workers have effectively been offered another pay cut.
“Although the long overdue modest rise for the lowest paid workers is welcome, this offer is another slap in the face for local government workers.”