Yesterday, local government employers confirmed that they are to impose a pay freeze for the third year running on 1.6 million council workers.
Unison, Unite and the GMB trade unions said yesterday that even more local government workers will fall into the trap of poverty.
Even those on the lowest wages will not get the £250 minimum increase promised to them in Chancellor Osborne’s June 2010 budget – for the second year in a row.
A survey by Unison earlier this week, revealed that pay in the sector has already been slashed by 13 per cent in the last three years alone, which has contributed to stripping wages down to 1990s levels.
More than a quarter of the workforce now earn less than the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour, and many are forced to rely on benefits and tax credits to keep their heads above water.
At the same time, Chief Executive pay in local government has risen by a massive 59% between 1998 and 2007.
Unison head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: ‘Many local government workers are in work but in poverty. It is a disgrace that their pay will be frozen for the third year running – forcing even more into the poverty trap.
‘Many of them will be women working in vital jobs in our local communities – like caring for the elderly, or for young children, or helping the vulnerable.
‘Families can no longer cope. This cannot go on – councils do have other choices such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves. The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid.’
Unite national officer, Peter Allenson, said: ‘Staff have endured a decade of below-inflation pay increases and freezes. Now attacks on pensions and conditions, and massive job cuts have heaped misery upon misery.
‘It is time that local government employers face the fact that they have a crisis on their hands.
Failure to act will push even more workers into poverty and damage local government services.
‘Staff need a substantial pay increase this year. Unite will be meeting its activists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and fully supports its members in any action they are prepared to take for pay justice.’
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary, said: ‘GMB members will be devastated at the news they have to make ends meet without a pay rise for the third year running.
‘This three-year pay freeze is not an austerity measure, it is a deliberate political choice by local government politicians who want to win votes by keeping pay at poverty levels to fund council tax freezes.
‘Council leaders and chiefs who vote themselves ever-higher allowances and salaries are a despicable bunch, and rank as the very worst employers I’ve ever come across.’
• An employment tribunal yesterday backed Unison’s claim that workers at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust should not be denied their incremental pay rise for taking time off work if unwell.
Under nationally agreed terms and conditions (Agenda for Change) health workers advance one point up their pay band each year until they reach the top of the band.
In October, the Manchester Trust imposed a new rule – any employee who is sick on four or more occasions in a year, or for 18 or more days in total, will lose that year’s increment.
Paul Foley, Unison regional head of health, said: ‘This is a victory for fairness. This decision means that other trusts will not be able to penalise health workers in a similar way.’