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
The biggest social work union has decided not to call its members out on strike over this year’s local government pay settlement, despite positive votes for walkouts in some areas.
UNISON instead plans to work with fellow unions towards a negotiated settlement with the employers’ side of the National Joint Council for Local Government Services, whose remit covers most councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, the prospects of a deal have been diminished after fellow union Unite announced its members would strike over the coming month in areas that voted to take action in recent ballots.
At the same time, the third union, GMB, plans to ballot members in some areas in September and October over taking industrial action.
Two of the three unions need to agree for a negotiated settlement with employers to go through.
Employers refuse to budge on ‘full and final’ offer
The news follows employers reiterating last week in a letter to unions that they would not budge on their “full and final” offer of a £1,925 rise for staff earning up to £49,950, and a 3.88% increase for those on higher salaries, for 2023-24.
Employers’ side secretary Naomi Cooke said leaders were “acutely aware of the cost-of-living pressures [staff were] 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”.
UNISON’s head of local government, Mike Short, said: “Staff at a number of councils and schools in England and Wales backed industrial action. But many others were unable to reach the high threshold imposed by anti-union laws.
“UNISON has decided it wouldn’t be effective to ask workers to strike. Instead the focus is on working with other unions to resolve the dispute. It’s important for staff to get the pay rise they’re due as soon as possible.”
Leaders ‘must return to the negotiating table’
However, announcing Unite’s decision to take strike action, national officer Clare Keogh dubbed employers’ refusal to negotiate as “dismissive and patronising”.
“Workers simply can’t make ends meet, yet employers are ignoring their plight,” she said.
“Local government employers need to get their heads out of the clouds and return to the negotiating table, to make an offer which begins to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”
Unite is planning to take strike action in areas including Bath and North East Somerset, Cardiff, Coventry, Cumberland, Darlington, Gwynedd, Haringey, Newham, North Tyneside, Tower Hamlets, Sefton, Southwark, Warrington, Westminster, Wigan and Wrexham.