On 20 August UNISON North West members joined colleagues from all over England, Wales and Northern Ireland in lunchtime protests to continue highlighting the dire plight of NJC pay in local government and schools.
Following the very successful sector-wide strike on July 10 the national employers have continued the stonewall refusal to resume negotiations, maintaining their incredulous position that a 1% pay offer represents a fair deal. This flies in the face of all reason and in a week when debate around rail fare increases has shone further light on the parlous state of earnings growth in the UK in general (other than at the top, of course) the real picture for local government and school workers – the group at the very bottom of the pay award ladder – could hardly be worse.
Since 2010 the average cost of electricity has gone up by 28%, gas by 38%, water by 18%, petrol by 12% and rail fares by 21%. Since 2010 the real value of NJC pay has FALLEN BY 20%.
UK GDP is forecast to rise by more than 3% in 2014. However you view the economy and the supposed recovery espoused by the Chancellor it is clear that over a million workers in local government and schools have been locked out of it. And with ministers announcing in July an intention to maintain public sector pay austerity until at least 2018 the key is being thrown away as well.
UNISON’s Head of Local Government in the North West, John Lewis, said “If the national employers genuinely believe that 1% is a fair offer in this context and climate then they must be living in a Twilight Zone. Local government and school support workers have taken the full brunt of austerity cuts and are now being told that even if the sun is rising elsewhere their pay value is being buried under the basement for years to come. It’s a disgraceful attitude from the national employers to a workforce that has strove to keep vital community services going under enormous and increasing pressure.”
A further national strike is planned for October 14 and UNISON will be balloting even more members, particularly in Academy Schools, so they can join the action.
Mr Lewis added “This dispute will not go away. The resentment amongst ordinary working people being stoked up by the attitude of the national employers is palpable. Around 40% of all local government and school support workers are now reliant on in-work benefits to make ends meet. We have members working full time and still having to take their children to food banks. It’s a disgraceful situation and it cannot be allowed to continue unchecked”.
In the next few days UNISON North West will be contacting every Council Leader and MP in the Region asking them to publicly call on the Local Government Association to reopen talks over a fair NJC pay settlement. Supportive statements have already been forthcoming from the City Mayors of both Liverpool and Salford, in a motion adopted by the full Liverpool City Council, and from the Leaders of Sefton Council and Lancashire County Council.
As we look ahead to local and general elections early next year our members in local government and schools will be very interested to see the response from politicians in their areas.