Holiday entitlement is focus for local government talks with unions

Unions negotiating with employers on behalf of council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have promised to bring pay and conditions into line with the rest of the public sector.

Heather Wakefield, lead negotiator for Unison, said she hoped to use the “intensive” discussions between Unison, Unite, the GMB and local government employers to increase benefits such as annual leave and maternity leave.

“Annual leave is 20 days in local government, compared with 25 in the rest of the public sector, for example,” she said, “and maternity leave and pay generally are higher in health”.

The two sides are aiming to achieve a revised national agreement of terms and conditions by the end of December, according to a statement released by the National Joint Council, while the talks around pay are continuing.

The statement included a pledge, signed by all parties, expressing a commitment for the national agreement to “include core conditions of service that bear comparison with conditions elsewhere in the public sector”.
Unison and Unite, the unions which led a two-day strike of local government workers on 16 and 17 July, will meet with the GMB on 10 September to establish their priorities for terms and conditions.

Wakefield refused to rule out further strike action, saying that industrial action had merely been “suspended” for the time being.

Members of Unison and Unite rejected the 2.45% pay deal and are seeking 6% instead.

However, Phil White, head of negotiations at the Local Government Employers, said the position remained the same: “We would not say the offer was final unless it was final.”

He added: “Like all disputes at some point there has to be a resolution and we’re hoping that will be sooner rather than later.

“The unions will have to decide whether it’s in their members’ interests to go on strike for a second time. We don’t believe it is.”

In Scotland, the three unions – Unison, Unite and GMB – are meeting next week to discuss further strike dates after their talks with Cosla broke down.

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