Council pay talks flounder

Local government pay talks are at crisis point, Unison has
warned after negotiations stalled again last week.

The union claimed strike action is closer than at any time since
the last nationwide local government strike in 1989. But employers
have accused the unions of “not facing up to economic reality”.

“One person’s unaffordable wage rise is another person’s P45,”
said councillor Brian Baldwin, chairperson of the Employers’
Organisation for Local Government.

Unison rejected the latest offer of a 3.5 per cent pay rise from
1 June, 2001, two months into the financial year, which Unison said
was equivalent to an annual increase of 2.9 per cent. The previous
offer of a 3 per cent rise for a full year was rejected by Unison
in February. It was also demanding extra for staff at the bottom
end of pay scales.

“The situation is serious. Industrial action is now a step
closer,” said Unison’s head of local government Malcolm Wing.
“Local government workers are at the forefront of the government’s
modernisation agenda and are already delivering more for less. We
are not prepared to accept 3 per cent.”

But councils have said that any offer more than 3 per cent would
result in enforced redundancies, unfilled vacancies and cuts in

“Most councils will struggle to avoid cuts at 3 per cent. There
is just not enough money to go around,” added Baldwin. “The
government has provided some extra money, but most of that is
ring-fenced for specific services, such as education. It is just
not available to fund wage increases.”

The two sides will meet again on 30 March. Meanwhile, Unison
launched its Getting Equal campaign this week to highlight the
gender pay gap in local government.

Women make up 71 per cent of the local government workforce, but
earn only 79 per cent of men’s pay, according to the union.

“The government must bring an end to pay discrimination in the
biggest area of women’s employment in Europe,” said Unison general
secretary Dave Prentis.

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