Hundreds of thousands of council workers being balloted for action

Warrington council refuse drivers demanding fair pay

HUNDREDS of thousands of council workers are to be balloted and urged to reject a ‘pitiful’ and ‘entirely inadequate’ pay offer during the next few weeks, potentially leading to a local authority ‘summer action’ across the country.

Local government representatives of the Unite union have agreed to recommend rejection of the local government pay offer, for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Unite is now in the process of holding consultative ballots for its workers covered by both the local government green book agreement (the majority of council workers) and the red book (local authority craftworkers).
The national employers’ pay offer of a £1,290 flat rate, plus 2.5 per cent on allowances, fails to tackle poverty pay or reverse the years of real terms pay cuts experienced by local government workers.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Unite’s local government representatives have rightly called on members to reject yet another pitiful pay offer for council workers.
‘Workers’ incomes have been cut to the bone, by over a decade of below-inflation pay cuts, and those cuts must be reversed.
‘Unite always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its council workers first and will back them all the way in their battle for a fair pay deal.’
The pay offer has been made against the backdrop of local government workers seeing their pay decrease by approximately 30 per cent in real terms since 2010.
This is directly linked to government cuts to council budgets which have seen them fall by 25 per cent during that time.
Unite national officer for local authorities Clare Keogh said: ‘The national employers know that this is an entirely inadequate offer for council workers and does nothing to meet their needs or expectations.
‘Council leaders need to sit down with the trade unions and negotiate a vastly improved proposal.’
The Unison union commented: ‘Council and school staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are worth far more than the disappointing pay increase offered by employers.’
The union is to consult hundreds of thousands of workers in local government over the £1,290 offer made last week, with a recommendation they vote to reject it.
Unison is calling for an improvement to pay that fairly rewards council and school staff, many of whom are in low-wage roles, for the essential services they provide.
Unison head of local government Mike Short said: ‘The offer is disappointing and falls short of the level council and school workers deserve.
‘Staff have seen the value of their pay plummet, while often being asked to do even more. They provide vital services to their communities by supporting the most vulnerable, educating children and keeping people safe.
‘Council and school workers need a pay rise that reflects this.’
The GMB union has also responded to the local government pay offer which affects more than one million workers
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘GMB has received the pay offer from the Local Government Association, affecting more than one million workers.
‘On the face of it, the deal looks disappointing – a cash lump sum of £1,290 equating to just 5.7 per cent for the lowest paid.
‘The LGA rejected our claims for a shorter working week, additional days’ leave and a commitment to work towards a minimum of £15 an hour.
‘However, GMB will now speak to our local government and schools committees to decide our position on the offer and will then ballot all members.’

  • The University and College Union (UCU) will hold an incoming Labour government’s ‘feet to the fire’ in its demand to fix the failed higher education funding model, said general secretary Jo Grady.

In a video shared on social media ahead of the union’s annual Congress, which opens this week in Bournemouth, Grady lambasted successive Conservative governments for the harm they have done to education and the country at large, but also warned Labour that higher education needs the ‘fee-based funding model’ abolished and replaced with ‘sustained, long-term public funding’, and that the Party’s new deal for working people must be implemented in full.
She told the UCU Congress that it ‘meets at a pivotal moment’ with universities, colleges, and prison education all facing severe challenges.
On higher education, she said: ‘Our universities are in crisis. A crisis that was predictable and predicted while vice-chancellors nodded along, abetting the destruction of the sector they are meant to safeguard. This union warned from the very beginning that marketisation spelt disaster.’
She pointed to UCU’s Reclaim Higher Education campaign as a solution to the crisis, saying: ‘We need to systematically de-marketise the sector. Let’s gut the misnamed Office for Students and turn it into a public education taskforce. It’s about time the public higher education “regulator” served the public good, not the fantasies of Policy Exchange culture warriors and neoliberal hacks.’
She also referred to some of UCU’s industrial action across higher education, saying: ‘At Aberdeen, Northumbria, and UEA our branches faced down compulsory redundancies. University bosses said the cuts were inevitable. We stood firm, balloted for strike action, and won.’
On further education (FE), she said: ‘We have undertaken an unprecedented industrial campaign in FE, securing pay deals of up to 10% at more than sixty colleges: 9.5% at South Staffordshire; 10% at Bolton; 10% at Tameside; and at Myerscough College, where our branch has grown six-fold since a 2019 12.8% pay deal. Phenomenal.
‘And in Northern Ireland, we achieved a massive victory in a years-long dispute, leaving England as the last part of the UK where we don’t have a commitment to parity between school and college teachers’ pay.
‘Our New Deal for FE strategy recognises that we still have lots to fight for (but) by sticking to the plan of building branch by branch… we can win the industrial and systemic change we need in FE.’

  • Huge social landlord Sanctuary Housing’s ‘awful’ treatment of staff, which has led to long running strikes by its London repair workers, and its ‘terrible’ tenant service provision are linked, the Unite union has said.

It said Sanctuary – one Britain biggest housing associations, with assets of £5.6 billion, a surplus of £100 million and a CEO, Craig Moule, on £400,000 a year – behaves like the ‘worst kind of corporate outsourcer’ to its workers and tenants.
Last week, the housing ombudsman named Sanctuary, along with other landlords, for knowledge and information ‘failings’ in its latest report on severe maladministration.
Earlier this month, an independent review into 4,000 Sanctuary homes found serious issues surrounding the landlord processes for dealing with repairs and complaints.
The review was ordered by the housing ombudsman after it issued two ‘severe maladministration’ findings against Sanctuary.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘It does not take a genius to see that the longstanding issues over terrible service provision at Sanctuary and its awful treatment of workers are linked.
‘Sanctuary acts more like the worst kind of corporate outsourcer than a non-profit organisation: Amassing mountains of cash and paying its CEO a fortune while taking a race-to-the-bottom approach to workers and tenant services.
‘That’s why Sanctuary’s London workers are striking. They have the full power of Unite behind them.’
The workers, who provide repair and maintenance services for 10,000 homes, including hundreds in Hackney, escalated strike action this week over longstanding issues surrounding pay, union recognition and terms and conditions.
Until the workers, who have been striking since February, forced Sanctuary into attending meetings at the conciliation service Acas, the landlord point blank refused to deal with unions.
Unite regional officer Matt Freeman said: ‘Sanctuary is anti-union and is trying to do everything it can to prevent its workers standing up for themselves and does not care about the consequences for either its staff or its tenants.
‘It is disgraceful behaviour and will not work – the only way this dispute will be resolved is if Sanctuary engages in good faith negotiations and tables an acceptable offer.’
The workers began fresh strike action last week and continued striking on May 28th and 30th. Industrial action will intensify if the dispute is not resolved.