Unions today warned that employers’ 0.5% pay offer for council staff would do nothing to solve recruitment problems in social work as it amounted to an extra 7p an hour for practitioners.
Unison, GMB and Unite urged council employers to “open meaningful negotiations as a matter of urgency”, describing the proposal, which is the lowest tabled offer for public sector staff for 2009-10, as “mean and paltry”.
The offer for staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland comes with the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, running a campaign to raise the status of children’s social work to tackle recruitment problems.
However, Unison’s head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “How can they hope to recruit and retain social workers to make sure that children at risk are protected when they are offering a ridiculously low amount – what sort of carrot is this?”
The unions claim councils have set aside between 1.5% and 2.5% for pay rises this year, a range which corresponds with offers made to other public sector staff in the UK.
Pay freeze threatened
Wakefield suggested that this approach would lead to strike action, adding: “Let’s clear the decks and allow staff to get on with their jobs serving local communities without the spectre of damaging industrial relations.”
Steve Bullock, chair of the LGA human resources panel, reiterated the employers’ view that the extra 0.3% that arbitration body Acas awarded staff last month for the 2008-9 settlement had left councils with less to play with for 2009-10.
He added: “The tough economic times, the low inflation rate, the pressure on public sector spending and the increased demands on council services mean that the employers have to make some tough decisions on pay and spending.”