Employers refuse to budge on local government pay offer following positive strike votes

Proposed £1,925 rise for social workers and other town hall staff remains 'full and final' offer, say employers, after UNISON and Unite branches back walkouts

Pay dispute image
Photo: bankrx/Adobe Stock

Should unions settle their pay dispute with councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

  • Yes, we need our pay rise now and won't get a better offer (60%, 901 Votes)
  • No, they should keep fighting for a better deal (40%, 607 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,508

Loading ... Loading ...

Council heads have refused to raise their pay offer for social workers and other staff after members of two of the three unions backed strike action in some local authority areas.

The employers reiterated that the proposed increases, of £1,925 for those earning up to £49,950 and 3.88% for higher earners, was their “full and final offer” for 2023-24 to workers across most councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

They issued the message in a letter to the three unions represented on the National Joint Council for Local Government Services, in direct response to repeated calls from the GMB, UNISON and Unite for an improved offer.

Votes for strike action

This was in the light of members of some branches of UNISON and Unite voting to take strike action in support of an improved deal, in ballots carried out over the summer. The GMB is due to ballot members in some areas in September and October.

In a letter to employers last week, the unions urged council heads “to return to the negotiating table with an improved pay offer for 2023”, saying that staff were facing “extremely high” food inflation and “increasingly unsustainable” energy prices.

“The cost-of-living crisis continues unabated, and this cannot continue,” said union secretaries Mike Short, for UNISON, Clare Keough (Unite) and Sharon Wilde (GMB).

Though the employers’ offer is worth up to 6.4% to social workers and 9.4% for the lowest paid council staff, the unions have claimed a 12.7% for 2023-24.

UNISON, which has the highest social worker membership, has not confirmed its strike plans, though the unions’ letter said Unite was preparing to announce industrial action across various areas.

Despite this, the union heads said they were committed to “reaching a negotiated settlement”.

Employers have made ‘full and final offer’

However, in response, employers’ side’s secretary Naomi Cooke said that its offer “has been repeatedly and unanimously reaffirmed as full and final since it was made on 23 February”.

She said this message was designed to provide staff, the unions and individual councils with certainty that no higher offer would emerge at a later date.

Cooke said the employers were “acutely aware of the cost-of-living pressures the local government workforce is experiencing”, which was why they believed the pay award – which was due to come into force on 1 April 2023 – “should not be subject to yet further delays”.

Urging the unions to accept the offer and refrain from industrial action, she added that employers believed the proposed deal was “fair in the current circumstances”. They have previously said that the settlement would put pressure on council budgets.

, ,

More from Community Care

48 Responses to Employers refuse to budge on local government pay offer following positive strike votes

  1. David August 23, 2023 at 3:05 am #

    Social Workers need to pursue strike action. Adequate pay for the important job we do is important, and especially in light of erosion of salaries over many years and current cost of living crisis. But it is also about working conditions, including caseloads and a culture within Children’s Services of working excessive hours way above the 37 per week that most are contracted to work with consequent poor work-life balance and burnout

  2. Nearly there... August 23, 2023 at 9:53 am #

    Think you’re a few days behind by the time you published. Unsion are actually now recommending to accept but need Unite and/or GMB to agree with them. Two unions must agree, one of which being Unison.

    • Anastasia Koutsounia August 23, 2023 at 3:24 pm #

      Hello, sorry about that, we’re planning to update the story asap. As we need to thoroughly fact-check anything we cover before publishing and we are a small team with limited resources, some updates/stories take a few days longer to come out. Hope this helps!

    • Adam August 28, 2023 at 6:11 pm #

      Hi, I have been searching for this answer. So for the council to pay us, 2 out of 3 unions have to agree? Will it drag on if they do not? I do not think that the council will back track pay to April but I might be wrong. I would like to be paid now but perhaps get a 1% extra next year. I think teacher pay should be put up a band. One solution is to increase council tax for a bigger budget.

      • julie September 17, 2023 at 11:16 am #

        This happens every year Adam . Last year we finally got the backdated pay from April when we got paid at the end of December. I have worked for HCC since 2005 and its the same bullshit every year , council suggest a pay rise , unions refuse and it just drags on for months .

  3. Dave jones August 23, 2023 at 2:14 pm #

    Just take the rise and get on with next year’s why do the unions always drag their feet

    • Dil August 23, 2023 at 5:06 pm #

      Don’t be fooled by the percentages. 9% of a pathetic salary won’t boost it by much when tax NI and pension is taken our. There are plenty of people not getting out of bed with more disposable income due to these weird add on top up benefits than a lot of community support workers have, so don’t just roll over and have your belly tickled.

    • Jo September 12, 2023 at 12:27 pm #

      Totally agree!

  4. Nota Socialist August 24, 2023 at 3:07 pm #

    And if we keep on giving flat rate percentage increases across the board, everyone will end up being paid the same and it will be pointless to get an education and strive for a better job. If I could get what I’m paid for doing a job with no stress and requiring no education, I’d smap it up.

    • Payup2023 August 24, 2023 at 4:08 pm #

      The pay offer is a fixed £1,925 every increment. So the ‘gap’ in pay between each band and increment will always be the same – £1,925; lower level roles are not going to catch up the pay of higher grades.

      • Steve August 24, 2023 at 11:04 pm #

        But the value of the difference decreases over time. It should be a mix of the two really. Maybe £1000 + 3% or similar.

      • Paul mchale August 28, 2023 at 11:04 am #

        Remember in April the lowest band was scrapped.
        So all them who was on the lowest band has moved up
        There is a problem.
        I’m now on the lowest band as a cleaning job.and I have more responsibility.

        Now that’s wrong

        The banding needs a good shake up.

  5. Support all and support now August 25, 2023 at 11:21 pm #

    A pay offer, whether accepted or not, should be paid at the initial offer from the start date. it’s NOT going down.
    Having a threat of you need the money now for some of the lower earners may encourage them to change their vote.
    Then any addition that’s agreed or sorted afterwards can be back paid. It’s also very poor that you have to pay to be in a union and be heard, this should be an automatic right in employment for a council, school or service. When you’re a lower earner these things matter, especially when you are thinking do I put the heat on or feed my family, you will certainly drop a union subscription first over nothing of the prior, so that says I’m struggling but have to give up my say!

    We all need to wake up, an offer is made pay it from when It’s made it’s clearly needed by the lower earners, but still look at action!

    Who knows people may actually realise they’re OK still, human nature to always want more, unfortunately currently every person is living with less when comparisons are made to the past.

    Pay now, work out the rest still, don’t let your colleague, friend, employee go under struggle at Christmas, lose their job due to low morale, make work difficult for all around as they can’t feel supported.

    • KT August 30, 2023 at 11:14 am #

      I absolutely agree with this statement. They should have paid the offer and then any additional (if negotiated) can be paid at a later date.

  6. Kayleigh August 26, 2023 at 7:32 am #

    if agreed when are we likely to receive the back pay

    • Sam August 29, 2023 at 2:43 pm #

      Yes the agreed amount is always backdated to the previous April .

  7. Toddy August 26, 2023 at 10:29 am #

    How much is the difference , monetary wise between the union’s claim and the company’s offer , because what people have to remember is as soon as you strike your not getting the money you loose back , if you did great but it never works out that way.

    • Sam August 29, 2023 at 2:41 pm #

      For me on my own at grade if I got what the union are asking for I’d get £4600 not £1925 . This would make up for the rent that’s increased £300 per month the gas and electric up £120 per month my car insurance up 20 per month and my food bill gone up £200 per month .

      Even at this higher rate my wages wouldn’t be more I’d have less money at the end of every month after paying my bills .

      • Dave jones September 1, 2023 at 6:22 pm #

        I agree pay up now then sort the rest out later it’s gmb they just drag their feet

  8. Jill August 30, 2023 at 8:30 pm #

    I’m due to move to a role in a different local authority. Will I still be eligible for back pay? It’s a lot of money to be loosing due to all these delays.

    • Mithran Samuel August 30, 2023 at 9:16 pm #

      Hi Jill,
      We covered this last year, when the Local Government Association recommended that employers pay backpay to former staff, who have moved during the year.
      I assume there will be similar guidance issued this year but can’t be sure. Also, it was a recommendation, not a requirement last year.
      Fingers crossed, it does happen.


    • Lisa September 4, 2023 at 5:30 pm #

      I queried this with my HR department (I work for a local authority and looked at moving). They confirmed that if I leave before the agreement on pay, then I just have to email HR once i’ve left to ‘apply’ for the backpay. They then for example pay the backpay from the date I left back to April 2023. I presume that this would be the same across all local authorities, but best to check with your specific HR department.

  9. G prior September 3, 2023 at 10:37 am #

    September now, still nothing finalised,Unite striking in parts of the country, unison now saying no strikes and GMB only now asking their members whether they want to strike or not,total mess, it’ll be winter soon and £160 a month extra will definitely come in handy,come on unions accept the pay offer and start now negotiating for next year

    • Elaine Harwood September 5, 2023 at 4:09 pm #

      Except it won’t be £160 extra, as you will pay more tax, National Insurance and more pension! All in all we will probably get an extra £100 per month!
      Having said that, we need it now not next April, like we had to wait before.

  10. Dave September 4, 2023 at 6:39 pm #

    Just like last year this as dragged on and on..With unite saying they will strike and gmb sending ballot papers out that won’t be done until mid October we are very unlikely to see any improvement in our pay until the new year,At a time of rising bills this is totally unacceptable..union’s need to get this deal agreed and stop dragging their feet.

    • Dave jomes September 6, 2023 at 8:16 am #

      Totally agree union’s are a waste of time really we paying each month for them and they not doing nothing

      • Raymondm September 6, 2023 at 2:46 pm #

        Totally agree ? ready to pull out of the union all together

      • Julie Portman September 11, 2023 at 10:35 am #

        Totally agree!! Particularly when they are aware that many people are struggling financially.

      • Dave Cummings September 19, 2023 at 9:04 pm #

        If the unions weren’t there, do you think there would be any offer?

  11. Elaine Harwood September 5, 2023 at 4:09 pm #

    Totally agree Dave.

  12. JAG September 8, 2023 at 10:14 am #

    Reasons why GMB drag their feet as you put it! is because we consult all our members in every possible way. and we don’t roll over to have our bellies rubbed like some other Unions..

    • Dave jones September 10, 2023 at 8:57 am #

      Then why do the other unions sort it and gmb are months behind ridiculous they are

  13. matt September 8, 2023 at 2:20 pm #

    oh yeah just cave in to yet another affective pay cut….brilliant…have you not seen the erosion of our wages over the last 13 years? NO stand up and fight!

  14. Sideshow Bob September 9, 2023 at 8:45 am #

    Local authority pay has always been lower than the private sector, but the benefits far out weight that, like 6 months full sick pay (you won’t get that anywhere else) and the pension contributions are more than I can find anywhere else, it all has to be paid for somewhere, and unfortunately that results in a lower annual wage,

    • Dave jones September 12, 2023 at 1:59 pm #

      Totally agree with that mucca

  15. Dave September 10, 2023 at 6:42 pm #

    Just shy of £4000 in 2 years is hardly something to be sniffed at…how much extra do you really think you’re going to gain by striking..deduct pay lost through strike action days and no one will be gaining that much..its time to put this to bed and start planning for next year’s negotiations..

    • Lee September 11, 2023 at 6:36 am #

      I totally agree.

    • Steve binks September 11, 2023 at 10:02 am #

      We all know that we are going to get exactly what’s being offered so it’s completely pointless to delay the inevitable. The unions are useless and a waste of money and time , they shouldn’t be allowed to control non union members affairs .

      • Dave jones September 12, 2023 at 1:58 pm #

        Totally agree with that just give the money now for christ sake like u said we will only get that anyway so striking is a waste of time

      • Dave Cummings September 19, 2023 at 9:06 pm #

        Will you be declining any award the unions have negotiated then?

  16. Rich Wilso September 12, 2023 at 10:28 am #

    As a non-member I would quite happily agree to waive any additional amount to be able to personally accept the current offer paid next month. It’s the same story every year with unions trying to make everyone believe there’s a better offer coming and the original offer then being accepted months and months down the line. I feel it’s very unfair that unions have the power to delay the whole workforce’s pay award when not even all their members bother to vote, it’s a tiny percentage of people voting to strike when you look at the total number of LG employees. I honestly don’t understand what the people at GMB have been doing, this offer was made in February and they still haven’t set a date for when their strike/s will happen.

  17. Unfair offer September 12, 2023 at 1:26 pm #

    In my opinion, I think it is an unfair offer… applying a fixed rise to everyone whilst helping lowest paid, kind of says to skilled, qualified and more senior / experienced workers “we value you less”… also £1,925 in say Derby, Leicestershire or Coventry, will improve your living standard much more than say Bristol or Cornwall, where housing, rental and living costs are higher than the previously mentioned examples – there are too many regional variances in how much a fixed £1,925 would have – and only London gets an increased weighting (because of course you MUST look after that regional above all others!). I think it’s time there were regional NJC committees were responsible for pay around the country rather than one national approach; especially if they’re going to do more fixed rises going forward – at least then they take more of the wider regional economics into account when setting pay proposals / awards.

  18. M Hughes September 13, 2023 at 8:58 am #

    In my opinion as a Trade Union member this pay rise should be accepted and give the workers the rise offered and let them get on with there lives. Striking only means they lose money and by the time this award is done and dusted the money they have lost will mean the pay rise wont be worth anything for them. Sad state of affairs , get this pay offer paid out and stop delaying the inevitable Unions for Christ sake.

  19. Getonwithit September 13, 2023 at 11:06 am #

    The Union’s have made such a mess of things this year. They need to get their act together and ballot at the same time. Absolutely no communication from Unison until the last minute and then no regular communication after the ballot.

    Considering my membership I have to say.

    Accept the pay award, and get on with negotiating for next year.

  20. Punk hippy September 14, 2023 at 12:09 pm #

    The unions have handled this very poorly.
    I can’t believe just how long the voting has dragged on and yet still we will have to wait again now until mid October for GMB vote’s.
    Do they not talk with each other to coordinate things a little better instead of leaving one union to wait for another, it’s beyond a joke.

  21. Brainwave September 17, 2023 at 12:53 am #

    £3850 in pay rises in last two years plus some employees will get an incremental rise too which is a reasonable offer. Unions are a complete waste of time and delay salary increases. Save your money and don’t pay their subscription fees.

  22. stan ward September 20, 2023 at 8:31 am #

    I have worked in local government since 1987.This “fiasco” happens too much. I have been in a union since 2000. The union has done very little for me personally( even through the turmoil of 2007/8) so I am now very sceptical about staying in it. I am remaining in it for my reasons now. This is just a repeat of the offer and time consuming problems of last year when we accepted in sept the pay award that was offered in April. The employers suggested this years offer well in advance of the April date, in my view, to stop this situation existing for 2023. I voted in the last round of voting to accept this years’ offer because I felt that nothing would be achieved by rejecting it. And ,up till now, I have been proven right. Again I would vote to accept it for this year if I were asked today.

  23. Verde September 20, 2023 at 2:44 pm #

    Unison were due to meet with Unite and GMB yesterday (19th September) to discuss accepting the pay offer. In my opinion it is pointless the smaller unions striking in a small amount of councils, won’t have any effect as everyone else (including Unison members) are still working. The pay offer needs to be accepted and paid as soon as possible