UNISON members at Rochdale Council have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action in defence of their terms and conditions of employment.
The ballot was held after the council proceeded to impose swingeing cuts to terms and conditions.
These include six days of unpaid leave which equates to a 2.8% pay cut, a freeze on pay increments, cuts to sick pay, car allowance and rates of pay for overtime and unsocial hours which are due to come into effect from 1st April 2012.
Helen Harrison, Unison Rochdale local government branch secretary, said: ‘Unison is anxious to continue talking to the council to try to avert any disruption to council services and remains willing to meet with the council at any time as long as constructive negotiation can take place.
‘Unison members do not take action lightly and the strength of the ballot result reflects how our members feel and shows a willingness to take industrial action if the council continues to attack our pay and conditions.’
Separately, Unison head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said yesterday: ‘A third year without a pay increase is driving the union’s 750,000 members in local government further into dispute with the employers.’
Unison stressed that Wednesday’s budget provided no relief to even the lowest paid, as councils are refusing to pay the £250 promised to them by the Chancellor in his 2010 budget statement.
With the cost of everyday essentials such as food, fuel and energy going up, council workers and their families are struggling just to make ends meet.
Wakefield has written to council leaders and chief executives calling on them to urgently think again about the impact of the freeze on workers saying ‘enough is enough’.
She said: ‘Local government employers have once again failed to pay the £250 to those council workers earning below £21,000, as promised by the Chancellor in his 2010 budget.
‘This third consecutive annual pay freeze means that council workers will have suffered a 15 per cent pay cut in three years and now earn a shocking ten per cent less in real terms than in 1996.
‘We are still in dispute with the local government employers over this year’s claim for basic pay and will be considering our next steps in the very near future, alongside the other two unions.
‘Council workers are now the worst paid and rewarded in the public sector. The median earnings for full-time employees are below those in the private sector too.
‘We are extremely concerned about the introduction of regional pay as opposed to national bargaining, which could have disastrous consequences for members.’
Unison has produced a report, Living on the Edge: Pay in Local Government, which shows that many union members are struggling to survive on low pay and that many are falling into absolute poverty.