“We cannot go on forever in a low pay and low productivity world in which all we can say to workers is ‘you have got to take a wage cut to keep your job’.”
Vince Cable, The Guardian, September 2013
For the facts on local government pay Click here
Report from Parliamentary Briefing
North West activists and staff joined colleagues from around the country at UNISON’s Parliamentary Briefing on ‘Boosting Pay in Local Government and Schools to Secure a Fair and Sustainable Recovery’ in the House of Commons on 11th March. Linda Boyer (Ribble Valley; Chair of NW Local Government; NW rep to UNISON NJC Committee) and Sue Glithero (Stockport LG; Vice Chair NW Local Government; National Chair UNISON NJC Committee), pictured, were joined by Glen Williams (Sefton LG; National Chair Local Government Service Group Executive) and John Lewis (Regional Head of Local Government).
Chaired by Peter Hetherington (writer for the Guardian) the session came one day after Early Day Motion 1159 – “Local Government and School Support Workers’ Pay” – was tabled by Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon and former UNISON President:
Heather Wakefield, National Secretary, outlined the claim and the context of severe local government funding cuts noting, as did all present, that the UK remains the 7th richest economy in the world and the austerity regime, playing out into wages and living standards, is a political choice and not a fiscal absolute.
Dr Peter Kenway, senior economist at the New Policy Institute (NPI), gave an overview on the research which shows that 55% of the cost of the NJC pay claim would be recouped directly by Government through increased income tax and NI payments and reduced in-work benefit and credit payments, and indirectly through VAT receipts on spending plus the additional tax benefits through the economic multiplier effect cascading out in the local economy.
Helen Kersley, principal author of the New Economic Foundation (NEF) report “Raising The Benchmark”, made the telling contribution that Government could – if it so chooses – significantly boost a genuine recovery by removing the public sector pay squeeze. This will not happen if left to the private sector because although Government may seek to shape pay policies across the full spectrum it is in the public sector that it has telling influence. We are currently seeing the nonsensical situation where funding for decent pay in local government and schools is being choked off – along with strident overall spending cuts – whilst at the same time the DWP bill spent on unemployed local government workers and more pointedly the increased cost of in-work benefit and tax credit top ups is rising exponentially.
Julie Grant, Head of UNISON Welfare, added a stark and chilling real-world aspect to the session, citing heart rending tales of UNISON members applying for help as they simply cannot make ends meet. The number of applications made to the union’s fund from local government members is rising alarmingly and we are currently assisting the families of some members who took their own lives as the pressure became unbearable.
By coincidence the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, was in a private session in the adjoining Committee Room. It can only be hoped he somehow overheard.
The disgraceful state of pay for local government and school workers is now at a critical level. It is inextricably linked in many ways to the parlous state of local government funding. As Peter Hetherington said in both his opening and closing comments, “local democracy and the nature of the society we have known for so long is at the very brink. I am deeply surprised there has been so little protest”.