Union fury after councils delay pay talks

Local Government Association delays talks until after central government announces changes to minimum wage

Unions have reacted angrily after the local government negotiators pulled out of talks about a £1 an hour pay rise for the lowest paid council workers.

Local Government Employers has delayed talks so that it can wait to see how much the government increases the national minimum wage.

Explaining the decision to put the talks on ice, a Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: “There is a consensus among councils across the country in favour of a pay offer being made.

“However, members of the national employers side are unable to formally respond to the unions’ pay claim until government has clarified details of this year’s increase to the minimum wage in April.”

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at Unison, said the move showed that the attitude of local government employers to their staff had “reached an all-time low”.

“It’s a shameful culmination of years of neglect of workers who keep our communities clean and safe, care for our elderly and help our children learn,” she said.

The GMB union said the pay rise being sought by it, Unison and Unite would benefit 1.5 million council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“I have been told that the local government employer representatives have a 1% remit to offer a pay rise from 1 April, but that they are holding this back,” said Brian Strutton, national secretary for public services at the GMB.

“The reason given is that they first want to see how much the minimum wage is going up by in October 2014 so that they can deduct this from the 1% pot.”

In a letter to Unison, the LGA’s employers’ secretary Sarah Messenger said that, given the current financial climate, local authorities need to ensure any pay offer made reflects any changes made to the minimum wage.

Messenger also used the letter to deny claims that its pay offer would be “pegged” to the minimum wage and said that any pay rise  agreed would be backdated to 1 April.

Unison’s local government committee will meet tomorrow to discuss how to respond while the GMB plans to hold a national meeting to debate its options in the near future.

The LGA spokesman said its national employers group will reconvene on 1 May to discuss the implications of a revised minimum wage on the pay rise it will offer.

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