Local Government workers in the North West have been ramping up their campaign for fair pay and fair council funding today as part of an official day of protest.
Council staff took part in protests, stunts and rallies at lunchtime and outside work hours. The wide range of activities on the day highlights the dire state of Local Government pay and the disastrous impact of cuts on local jobs and services.
Since 2010, Local Government workers have endured a devastating three year pay freeze and then a miserly 1% increase last year, representing an 18% fall in pay in real terms, back to the level of the 1990s. Council budgets have been cut by 40% by the Coalition government.
UNISON, GMB and Unite – the unions representing 1.6 million Local Government workers – formally submitted their pay claim to employers last November, and expect a formal pay offer later this month. The unions are seeking a £1.20 an hour minimum increase to bring the bottom rate of pay in Local Government to the level of the Living Wage and restore some of the pay lost by higher earners.
More than half a million Local Government workers earn less than the current Living Wage and a million earn less than the Coalition’s ‘low pay’ threshold of £21,000 a year. The Living Wage is £7.65 and £8.80 in London.
Part-time workers - mainly women and more than half the local government workforce – have been particularly hard hit, with their hourly earnings now worth the same as they were 10 years ago. Many low paid part-time Local Government workers need benefits and tax credits to keep their families out of poverty, creating a false economy.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s Head of Local Government, said:
“Politicians from all parties have been talking about the need to end low pay and introduce the Living Wage. This must apply to Local Government workers, more than half a million of whom currently earn less than the Living Wage.
“It is deeply disturbing to hear the continuing stories of Local Government workers resorting to food banks. These workers have suffered an 18% drop in earnings since the Government’s austerity measures were introduced, which is why we want the same flat rate increase to be applied to everyone.
“More than 75% of the workforce are women, whose contribution has been consistently undervalued. This pay increase should be part of a new gender agenda to give our members the recognition they deserve in their pay packets.
“Our members in local government have shown their commitment to keeping our local services going against all odds, and we now need a commitment from the government and the Local Government Employers to finally make us a decent pay offer. More than half of the cost would be recouped through increased tax and National Insurance take, so it is affordable.”