COUNCIL worker unions angrily rejected a 2 per cent wage cut pay offer yesterday, as inflation hit 4.6 per cent, the highest in 16 years.
The Retail Prices Index (RPI), went up to 4.6 per cent, from January’s figure of 4.2 per cent. The RPI, which includes mortgage interest payments, is used in many wage negotiations. February’s figure is the highest RPI since August 1991.
On the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure, inflation was 2.8 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent the month before. If the CPI goes above 3 per cent, Bank of England governor Mervyn King is required to write a letter to the government explaining why it has happened.
Dismissing the two per cent offer as ‘insulting and demeaning’ and ‘not good enough to consult on’, the council unions told the employers they would not be putting it to members.
The employers agreed to take the unions’ rejection back to local authorities across England, Wales and the north of Ireland, and asked for further talks.
UNISON Head of Local Government Heather Wakefield said: ‘This is effectively a pay cut. With today’s inflation rates going up to 4.6 per cent and living costs rising much faster than council workers pay, millions of workers are being pushed closer to the breadline.
‘This is a paltry pay award which will drive down the morale of staff further.
‘Our members are angry. 70 per cent of employers have failed to complete on pay and grading reviews promised by the end of this month. In addition the review of the local government pension scheme has yet to be completed.’
Peter Allenson, TGWU national secretary for public services, said: ‘With inflation running at 4.6 per cent and our members under pressure to deliver the continuous improvements demanded by the government, the public and council employers, this pay round must acknowledge their contribution.’
Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Local Government said: ‘The public rightly demands good quality service from local councils. They also expect people delivering the services to be fairly rewarded for their hard work, not to face a pay cut and worse financial hardship.’
Last month the unions submitted a local government pay claim to employers covering some 1.3 million council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Recent hikes in living costs include average train fares up 4.3 per cent this year; gas bills up 107 per cent in the past three years; electricity charges up 63 per cent over three years; water bills up 12 per cent since 2005 and set to rise another 20 per cent in the next two years.