Local government pay dispute remains unresolved following union meeting

Unions to meet again at end of October to discuss next steps as Unite continues with local strikes and GMB ballots members on walkouts

Pay dispute image
Photo: bankrx/Adobe Stock

The local government pay dispute for England, Wales and Northern Ireland remains unresolved following a meeting between the three unions last week.

UNISON, GMB and Unite agreed to meet again at the end of October but are currently pursuing different strategies in response to employers’ offer of a £1,925 rise for staff earning up to £49,950, with 3.88% on the table for higher-paid workers.

UNISON, which represents by far the most number of social workers of the three, is pursuing a negotiated settlement, while the GMB is currently balloting members on industrial action, a process which ends on 24 October, 2023.

Unite strike action

Unite, meanwhile, is holding strikes in specific local authorities, with a three-week strike in Wrexham and Cardiff councils, Wales, having started on Monday (25 September), alongside a 24-hour walkout in Haringey, north London.

Two of the three unions need to agree a position for a deal to go through, meaning the earliest any agreement could likely be reached is November, over seven months after the date the pay rise was due to kick in (1 April).

This was when last year’s pay settlement was agreed.

The pay settlement covers the majority of councils across the three countries – those that are covered by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services (NJC).

The NJC’s employers’ side has remained steadfast in saying that its offer was “full and final” since it was made in February of this year.

Union urging councils to pay above national offer

However, as part of its strike campaign, Unite has been appealing over the heads of the employers’ side to urge individual councils to give their staff more than the £1,925.

This appears to have worked in Newham, east London, where a four-week strike by refuse workers due to start on Monday (25 September) was averted due to an improved settlement from the authority.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, urged leaders in Wrexham and Cardiff to do the same, stating: “The political leadership in these councils need to step up, stop hiding behind the national pay body and negotiate locally with us.

“Unite will be providing our members with its complete support during their strike action.”

Employers criticise union ‘procrastination’

However, the national employers criticised the unions for not coming to an agreement.

“We share councils’ exasperation at the unions’ continued procrastination, which causes yet further delay to their members and the wider workforce receiving the 2023 pay increase of £1,925,” said a spokesperson.

The row comes with council employers in Scotland having offered staff an improved offer that is, broadly, superior to that in the rest of the UK.

However, unions there are also split on their response there, with GMB and Unite suspending planned school strikes to ballot members on the offer and UNISON pressing ahead with walkouts. 

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51 Responses to Local government pay dispute remains unresolved following union meeting

  1. Simon Ingram September 26, 2023 at 6:18 pm #

    This is why unions should take no part in pay negotiations. They have done nothing towards getting a good pay deal in out pockets. 2022 £1925.00 increase. And £1925.00 again this year. They’re all incompetent.

    • Barry Jeffery September 27, 2023 at 12:25 am #

      Totally agree. What do the unions actually do apart from promoting delays which leave employees with no increase in pay for months at a time they really need it

      • Simon Cardy September 29, 2023 at 10:09 am #

        I understand people’s frustration but if the UNION organisation were to disssolve into thin air tomorrow the employers would in all likelihood withdraw their offer, introduce deeper pay cuts for years to follow and move rapidly to performance related pay. Is that what you’s want to happen and if so what would you or could you do about it?

        • Chris October 2, 2023 at 12:45 pm #

          Accept the pay offer, Unison has.

        • Just me October 4, 2023 at 4:09 pm #

          Yes. Then those who don’t perform and can’t do their job, will no longer be carried by those of us who can!!
          Senior managers got their pay rise. In the meantime we have to carry more work, more responsibility and as middle management are managing both up as well as down.
          If people can’t do their job, then step aside. Let those of us who have been carrying the weight for a long time, reap some reward.

  2. Lin Newton September 27, 2023 at 10:18 am #

    “The unions” are US the members!! No union negotiator can reach a decent settlement without members being prepared to take industrial action. I know because I’ve been there. Being a union member means more than paying subs. It is appalling to me when Unison members can’t even be bothered to vote in union ballots.
    As a frontline CP social worker for over thirty five years I knew the value of a strong union because our families and communities need the services and support we and other council departments provided. If workers don’t use the unity and strength being in a trades union provides then never mind our pay, there will be no jobs, no vital services and annihilated communities. So stop knocking “the union” and step up, step out and fight for our rights and our communities.

    • matt September 27, 2023 at 10:28 am #

      Absolutely spot on. These so called pay ‘rises’ are always effectively pay ‘cuts’ ! Time to collectively step up and say NO!

    • Dave M September 28, 2023 at 7:22 pm #

      Well said, and totally agree. I think we’d have a stronger bargaining position if we had just one union representing Sws, its all a bit fragmented and weak at the minute. We should be shouting our worth, instead of being passive wimps.

      • LG October 1, 2023 at 9:45 am #

        We have, what we need is all SW to join Social Workers Union to give them the power to work for us.

    • Anit Saxena September 29, 2023 at 11:37 am #

      Well said!!

  3. Dan Martin September 27, 2023 at 11:38 am #

    The councils aren’t stupid, they’ve offered £1925 because they know the bottom half of the workforce, this represents a big rise (in percentage terms) but for those higher up the scale, it’s a pathetic rise (in percentage terms). This splits the voters straight away meaning unions can’t get mandates for strike action. Very clever and it appears members are too thick to see through it and tell councils where to shove their pay offer.

    Unisons willingness to capitulate is also a disgrace and I’m considering moving to another union which has a backbone. Unite for example.

    • Matt sandey September 29, 2023 at 9:27 pm #

      The problem with this is you want a bigger % for the higher earners this means the rich get further adrift of the people at the bottom of the chain . I agree with the way the Payrise is done as it’s even across the board however I don’t agree with the amount. And yes the union members should be voting for strike action but the unions do not represent the staff , gmb for instance have dragged this out an extra 2 months by not balloting at the same time as the other unions . People get warn down and accept it because of how much the unions drag it out. This offer was made in February yet it’s going to be October before the unions agree to accept or decline that is a disgrace and no excuse for it .

  4. bamboozeled September 27, 2023 at 2:04 pm #

    The problem is having 3 different unions singing from different hymn sheets..they should have all come together in febraury to agree a common response,with dates set for each step,instead we have the incompetent gmb only now balloting members over strike action..the longer it drags on the more people just want it done and to see the money in their pockets…As seen in scotland drag it out to then reccomend acceptance of a 0.5% increased offer..just get the deal agreed and start working on next years offer!

  5. Rebecca September 28, 2023 at 8:25 am #

    I just want my money now. The one good thing is they can’t do a flat pay rise again now because legally you can only do it twice before you have to go back to percentages! The comment about the ‘bottom half’ of workers is so unfair because it’s use ‘bottom half’ that keep the places running by doing all the groundwork before the managers on £45k plus just sign off on it!!! Local authorities have been too too heavy for years – my old team had 2 supervisors for 2.5 staff and my new team has 1 manager, 4 supervisors and 5 staff??!! Too many up top not enough ‘low paid’ to work

  6. Kate September 29, 2023 at 6:46 am #

    I need my payrise now. I can’t cope with any further delay. I have been up since 4am worrying about money and my payrise will really help to sort it. I am getting more and more frustrated by the delays. Please can we have the payrise in December and no later! Yes, the paydeal isn’t ideal but it’s 100% better than no pay rise which is the position we are all in now. Rising costs and flat pay as the unions keep delaying it reaching out pay packets!

    • Dawn Hopkins October 5, 2023 at 4:26 pm #

      I so completely agree. my husband is off work following cancer surgery and I really need the increase now. I don’t care about 5 per cent more. Pursue that next year.

    • Claire October 23, 2023 at 12:31 pm #

      I completely agree Kate, we should have had this sorted in April and now here we are end of October and still no sign. I just think some people are being greedy asking for more than what’s been offered. Do they think the council has a bottomless pit of money to keep up with these requests. I for one is happy with the offer, I have worked for the Authority for over 25 years and I would like to keep my job until I retire. I don’t want our authority to go bankrupt but seems to me the unions are just trying to bleed them dry! Enough is enough!! At least let us have the rise before Christmas

  7. Neil Palmer September 29, 2023 at 6:57 am #

    The biggest problem is the poor year on year rises to the professionally qualified element of staff , with the majority of the rise loaded to lower pay is causing serious recruitment issues longer term. Its a short sighted view by the employers that are going to face real issues getting professional staff, when the gap at this level is considerable between similar roles in the private sector.

    • Andy October 22, 2023 at 7:51 pm #

      Why can’t the implement the payrise they offer immediately because thats the minimum its gonna be right? So get that out to people straight away, then just argue over the “extra”…
      Oh wait, that would make poor people’s lives easier so let’s not

  8. Fed up September 29, 2023 at 1:27 pm #

    Are the unions actually in agreement with what would be classed as an acceptable offer, it obviously would never be what was asked for. But are they holding out for like £1k more per person, or going to deem an extra 0.5% a ‘win’ (so a pittance increase on what was already offered). I have no confidence there is a coordinated and agreed level. To avoid it dragging out they should just say what they’d accept to end the strikes and balloting – tell the NJC and LGA what they can offer to avoid it dragging on rather than just going cap in hand asking please sir, can I have some more…

  9. Jonah Jones September 29, 2023 at 1:37 pm #

    This is utterly ridiculous. We won’t see the pay until 2024 now. WE NEED IT NOW.

  10. K September 29, 2023 at 2:38 pm #

    I want my payrise now. Sick of all these delays. I am struggling to feed my kids, I work full time and every penny will help ATM. I am exhausted but seriously considering taking a second job to make up for the payrise money the unions are delaying me receiving ATM. Food on the table and paying my rent is my priority. I am a single mum and don’t have the luxury of a dual income. Strike action wont achieve anything so why delay us getting a pay rise any longer! Why are the unions being so slow in implementing actions to resolve this? It is unethical behaviour on their part imo – yes, do the democratic thing but don’t do it at a snails pace that leads to hard working people not receiving their payrise in a cost of living crisis.

    • matt October 2, 2023 at 10:43 am #

      Your situation will only worsen if employees do not sufficiently stick up for themselves…why do you think pay has eroded so badly over the last 13 years? If anything you need to be more vociferous with your Union and employer to demand better working conditions, including pay!

      • Kerry123 October 7, 2023 at 10:05 am #

        Matt I think you are missing the point. People need their payrise. It won’t worsen if someone can actually afford to pay their rent and feed their kids.

        I don’t think anyone has anything against the union trying to increase pay – just the snail pace at which they do it.

        8 months down the line and still balloting for strike action and yes for what usually is a pittance on top of the current offer. People need the increase now not 12 months from now. Local Government has been put on the back burner again whilst teachers, Police, etc have been made a priority and therefore dilutes any bargaining power and public support as people are sick of hearing about strikes. Not to mention, workers are already at their wits end with rising costs so why would they choose to lose pay striking.

        The pay offer was made in February and that was when the ballot should have taken place. Ready for strike action in April if that’s what workers wanted. It doesn’t send a great message when even the union put local government workers on the backburner and prioritiise every other worker on their books.

        To the lady who feels she is more important than the middle manager, you clearly have no idea the pressure, responsibility and workload that middle managers hold or their personal circumstances and surprisingly they have all the same bills as you to pay. Do you think most middle managers work hours and hours of unpaid over time for the fun?

        None of us are more important or deserving than anyone else, None of us are exempt from inflation and interest rises.

        And the flat rate is appalling, we all have different circumstances. I live alone. Someone on the lowest pay point may have a very well paid partner or even a partner that is also on the lowest pay point – they will still be earning more than me as a couple and yet my bills still go up the same.

  11. Bob B October 2, 2023 at 5:43 pm #

    We need the money now. The unions have been extremely poor in this. I am thoroughly disappointed in them.

  12. Reality Strikes October 3, 2023 at 12:12 pm #

    This situation is becoming ridiculous and as more council’s issue Bankruptcy notices the likelihood of us getting any rise at all, or keeping our jobs, is becoming more remote. Please agree to the payrise and issue it before more of us become destitute and in serious financial destress which many of us already find ourselves in! The payrise will help us. It might not be gold plated with diamonds as some seem to want, but these people are probably also the types of people who aren’t paying for a mortgage or rent (or are paying very little) and do not have dependents.

    The focus of the current ask should be shifted to the 24/25 payrise that should already be being discussed now… this will now continue to be delayed due to the greed of those saying NO to the current offer for 23/24.

  13. Anon October 3, 2023 at 2:53 pm #

    The unions are a disgrace on this!!! 8 bloody months we have been waiting for much needed cash!!!

    Its now time for htem to accept its not oging to get better this year and agree to it so the peopleon hte breadline can get the money they deserve to get them through winter!

    • Jithus Spocken October 6, 2023 at 4:41 pm #

      Really losing faith in our unions now. This is appalling.

    • David Errington October 25, 2023 at 7:13 pm #

      Totally agree. We need now for the pay rise to be accepted as we are all struggling with the cost of living right now and need this to be settled

  14. Lee October 4, 2023 at 10:16 am #

    The problem is the large disparity between the pay grades, all of which the unions have to represent. The already (relatively) well off on the high pay grades can afford to take industrial action and hold out for a better deal. Those on low pay have actually been offered a good deal already, but are missing out and are facing real hardship as a result. Time the different groups had separate represention?

    • Kerry123 October 7, 2023 at 10:20 am #

      Not sure why you assume it’s Manager holding this up. I don’t know of any. I do know of many grade 6 to 8’s and lower paid staff that are.

  15. Rhys Riddle October 6, 2023 at 8:16 am #

    Looks like I’m going hungry for a while. I can’t believe this is still going on. So upsetting.

    • matt October 9, 2023 at 11:31 am #

      What’s more upsetting is year on year real terms paycuts!

  16. Paul October 10, 2023 at 8:40 am #

    All of you leave gmb as they caused the delay – them I’m sure we will get the current offer, and start negotiating for 24/25 early in new year

    • matt October 11, 2023 at 3:27 pm #

      No thanks…you don’t want to fight for fairness that is up to you!

  17. Pickers October 17, 2023 at 8:36 am #

    Why does it always come down to Unite holding things up

  18. matt October 18, 2023 at 11:05 am #

    You lot are just not interested in fighting for fair wages and conditions….absolutely spineless….you let the Tories and there paymasters walk all over you! Without the Unions and those that do fight for better conditions…….you lot would be in the poorhouses….seriously pathetic!

    • David Errington October 25, 2023 at 7:16 pm #

      I am more concerned about job cuts with councils budgets continually slashed. I am struggling to feed my children right now on my single wage and the cost of living. This needs to be settled NOW

      • Graham Slatcher October 26, 2023 at 3:12 pm #

        And that’s the issue here. With Respect to people on higher wages I’d love to say lets fight. The sad truth is that a lot of us are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. Prices/Rents have increased but our wages have not. I’m slowly getting into more debt each month and falling behind on essential payments. Would you be able to afford to strike in these circumstances? The Employers know this.

  19. J M October 18, 2023 at 11:51 am #

    Divide and conquer really works, just look at the comments on here. There are three facts:

    Every one of us is getting another pay cut. The cut for those who are getting 10% pay increase will be less than that for those getting 4% but it’s another pay cut for all.

    There can be no workable strategy by the unions – on the whole those who are getting 10% increase will be happy whereas those getting 4% will be unhappy.

    The unions are not unified in there approach but management are in theirs = one voice.

    My view is the only way to try and make any pay award more equitable is for us to work to rule.

    My understanding – I am happy to be corrected – is the fixed pay award can only be used for two consecutive years so next year will be different and divide and conquer will no longer be a tool to beat us with.

    • matt October 18, 2023 at 2:19 pm #

      I think it is right that the lowest paid get a larger % increase regardless……otherwise they are increasingly falling behind. As an analogy just look at the situation with CEO pay compared to the median wage…118 times…..absolutely crazy and unsustainable.

      I would advocate an improved fixed pay award across the board year on year to begin to bridge what I consider a profoundly unfair NJC pay scale. Either that or a sliding scale in favour of the lowest paid.

      • JM October 18, 2023 at 7:03 pm #

        I am sorry but I cannot follow you argument. Where is the incentive to progress within your work if you are not going to be properly paid for your efforts.

        I 100% believe that the lowest paid should get a decent, above inflation uplift in their wage but not to the detriment of those who have higher paid jobs. Your example of CEO’s is extreme in my view. I am a Social worker but for a long time I was a support worker. My wage has increased but so too have the demands made of me and the responsibility I now have in my role.

        If the fixed uplift continued year on year it would not be too long before there was parity in pay and where would that leave us? There would be no incentive to progress in your chosen career.

        £20,000 x £2,000 per year x 5 years =£30,000 =50%
        £40,000 x £2,000 per year x 5 years = £50,000 = 25%

        Again, this is just another example of how divide and conquer can divide and conquer us. Our values will probably be very similar to one another but our ideas on pay and pay structures are at odds.

        • matt October 19, 2023 at 11:18 am #

          I understand what you are saying but aside I see people on lower pay often doing harder work than those above them. The ‘higher responsibility’ issue is often slight of hand and not genuine…

          It is a rigged and unfair system. In addition the % model of annual pay ensures the richer get richer and the poor poorer. 10% of 20K is 2K….10% of 40K is 4K ! As a caveat it is recognised the present government consistently pay year on year below inflation….which as we are all now seeing is a disaster…

          The pay model you have set out after 5 years still has the individual on 40K….20K better of than the individual on 20K. That is still a huge difference and why is that not ample reward?

          A lot of what is driving the ideology of the % model is classist and not about ‘worth’ but about ‘greed’…

          • Lee October 19, 2023 at 1:07 pm #

            Precisely. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  20. Chris October 23, 2023 at 11:55 am #

    You do know right, that next year’s pay negotiations, can not be dealt with until this year’s mess has been solved.

  21. Stephen October 23, 2023 at 9:16 pm #

    It is a shame that people knock the value of our unions, we are all surfs and they are the only thing holding the tide back. The value of local governance is the staff and the more support given to the unions the better. A negotiated settlement is always preferable and I am sure a little more could be offer. We all know that councils still waste a lot of the public funding.

  22. Vicky October 24, 2023 at 9:54 am #

    We needed the pay rise back in April. I live on my own with my kids, and work full time but need to claim universal credit. Universal credit do not acknowledge back payments of months and months so basically, my benefits will be zero’d out, meaning any backdated pay will be removed! If the unions actually paid a lump sum (the minimum that has been discussed at the start of the negotiation) immediately, this would alleviate the problem for those of us having to claim benefits for living alone with kids. What’s the point?? The payrise will be effective for me after the back payment but the back payment will remove any benefits I was entitled to for the month it is back paid. So unfair.
    Just pay the minimum immediately and sort out the rest of the rise at their leisure. The impact this has on those of us having to be topped up with benefits is incredibly unfair.

    • Emma October 26, 2023 at 7:36 am #

      Vicky I am the same but Universal credit have said they will be cancelling my claim when I get the back pay so I will not only miss a months universal credit I will then have to wait 5 weeks again while they sort my new claim out.

  23. Dwh67 October 24, 2023 at 11:03 am #

    When will ballot results be announced?

    • Chris October 25, 2023 at 10:33 am #

      Thursday 26th, I believe.