Should trade unions accept councils' pay offer for 2022-23?
- Yes (64%, 727 Votes)
- No (36%, 407 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,134
Council leaders have offered social workers and other local authority staff a £1,925 pay rise for 2022-23.
Though well below unions’ pay claim and entailing a real-terms pay cut given current rates of inflation, the offer is the biggest in many years and reflects the impact of the cost of living crisis on local authorities’ ability to attract and retain staff.
However, in making the offer, employers warned that it would put service provision and jobs at risk without more government funding for councils.
The proposed rise would apply to all points on the National Joint Council for Local Government Services’ (NJC) pay spine. For an average social worker on point 30, earning £34,373 in 2021-22, this would amount to a 5.6% rise.
The proposed rise is worth more for social workers than the award of roughly 4% given to most NHS practitioners last week.
The national employers’ side – representing councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – have also offered staff an extra day’s annual leave, with effect from April 2023, and an increase of 4.04% on all allowances, which includes the standby allowance for emergency duty team social workers. This is currently worth £30.35 per session, and would rise to £31.58 if the offer were agreed.
Pay offer ‘will hit services or jobs’
The employers had previously reported that councils were budgeting for a pay increase of about 2% – much lower than the offer, which will see staff receive rises of between 4.04% and 10.5% depending on their current pay.
Setting out their reasoning for the offer in a letter to council chief executives, employers’ secretary Naomi Cooke said “it was fair to employees, given the wider economic backdrop and is in line with awards made recently to other parts of the public sector workforce”.
However, she warned that without additional funding from government, the pay offer would “come at a cost to jobs and / or service provision”.
Despite the relative generosity of the offer, it amounts to a real-terms pay cut for social workers and most other council stuff, with inflation running at 9.4% currently and tipped by the Bank of England to exceed 11% by October.
Mixed response from unions
It is also below the claim of 11% – or £2,000 for lower-paid staff – made by the main local government unions, UNISON, Unite and GMB, who gave a mixed response to the offer.
“This offer is better than employees might have expected, given the low pay rises of recent years,” said UNISON’s head of education and local government, Mike Short.
“It shows local government employers are beginning to understand the financial nightmare school and council staff are living through. But it’s not enough to make up for a decade and more of lost wages.”
The GMB’s national secretary, Rehana Azam, said: “Whilst real terms pay cuts risk exacerbating the staffing crisis, we recognise this is an offer that warrants further scrutiny so we can assess its impact on our members. GMB will now meet with reps and members to discuss the next steps.”
‘A pay cut dressed up as a pay increase’
Unite was more critical, with its acting national officer, Clare Keogh saying:
“Council workers have already suffered over a decade of below-inflation wage rises and this is another pay cut dressed up as a pay increase.
“The cost-of-living crisis is hitting council workers hard, many already can’t afford to make ends meet, spiralling food costs and energy bills will more than swallow the pay offer being proposed.”
The unions will now consult their members on the offer.