UNISON calls for substantial increase in pay to stave off assault on those who maintain vital community services


UNISON has warned that a third year of frozen pay will push council workers further into poverty.

The warning comes as the union lodges its pay claim for 2012/13 to the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

UNISON is calling for a substantial increase in pay, as council workers, including teaching assistants, carers, social workers, cleaners and dinner ladies, will have suffered two years of frozen pay by April 2012. In the face of record inflation this has effectively led to workers suffering an 11.6% pay cut. The lowest paid have been hit the hardest, as local government employers have failed to honour the government’s promised £250 to those earning below £21,000.

The union’s evidence reveals that when the loss of purchasing power due to inflation levels since the last pay rise in 2009 is taken into account, more than 314,527 members are coping on pay levels equivalent to less than the minimum wage.

The pay freeze has come on top of huge government cuts which are disproportionately affecting women workers. Over the second quarter of 2011 alone, 57,000 jobs were lost in local government, where women make up three quarters of the workforce.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s Head of Local Government, said: “Local government workers have suffered real financial hardship for two years, as the cost of living has risen sharply, but their pay has stayed the same. If their pay is frozen for another year and costs remain high, whole families will struggle as they are pushed further into poverty.

“Council workers are already suffering from cuts to jobs and services, their terms and conditions are under attack at local level and and the government plans to change their pensions, to make them pay more, work longer, for less. This is an unparalleled assault on those who are working harder for less to maintain vital community services.

“To add insult to injury, the £250 promised by the Chancellor to soften the blow of a pay freeze for the lowest paid, has been denied to local government workers. While other low paid public service workers have had this flat rate increase, yet again council workers, go without. Low paid women are bearing the brunt of the pay freeze and of the Government’s service cuts as a whole.

“The evidence in our claim shines a spotlight on poverty pay in local government and the struggle council workers are facing to make ends meet. These workers are also under huge pressure to maintain a quality service in the face of the cuts. We need a substantial pay increase to drag them out of poverty, put some money in their pockets and help kick start the economy.”

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