Council Workers are currently being consulted on a pay offer of 2.75% for 2020-21. This offer falls significantly short of the union pay claim of 10% yet UNISON nationally are not making a recommendation to members to reject the offer. That does not mean that branches and regions cannot make recommendations, for instance North West Region in Unison are calling for rejection and others should do the same.
Over the last ten years council workers have suffered a real pay cut of over 20%, whilst seeing workloads and stress increase dramatically. This lousy pay offer from the Local Government Association (representing all councils) won’t even cover the cost of their journey to work. The reality for many care workers in outsourced services is worse, surviving on minimum wage and no sick pay. UNISON should be calling upon the councils to apply the pay rise to privatised services and campaigning for them to be brought back ‘in house’.
Of course in considering the pay offer, we do not ignore the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The Centre for Progressive Policy have recently published a paper indicating that 8 out of 10 councils face bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic; this includes many ‘red wall’ areas that voted Tory. We also know that the economy has nose dived. But we will not pay for the mistakes of the government nor to keep bankers and entrepreneurs stocked with caviar and champagne.
Council workers, alongside other key workers, have shown during this pandemic which jobs are important, and they are overwhelmingly in the public sector (not exclusively, we don’t forget shop workers, delivery drivers etc). We know the majority of the British public know that and support us. People up and down the country stood on their doorsteps clapping, not for politicians, not for business, not for bankers. They clapped for the NHS, they clapped for care workers, they clapped for all key workers.
Councils need to demand extra funding from the Tories. The Local Government Association has not even approached the government about extra funding for this pay rise. Councils, many of them Labour controlled, need to be stronger. A clear demand for investment in council services has to be made; and that should start with the government fully funding this year’s pay rise. Currently councils are to pay the increase from existing budgets. Despite this many of them have already budgeted for a pay rise of at least 3%.
Boris Johnson has proposed ‘a new deal’; but we know that is empty rhetoric. If this country is to address the economic disparities, increasing public sector pay significantly must be a key element.
Now is the time for UNISON to be bold, and it is time to make a stand. The public do not want to return to the old normal and trade unions can play a key role in changing our country for the better. With online voting, a high turnout and a rejection of the pay offer can be achieved. Where possible activists should press for branches to recommend and campaign for rejection.
Socialist Alternative are clear this miserly pay offer should be rejected and a campaign should be launched to press the Tories for increased funding– council workers deserve better.
- Reject the 2.75%!
- Fight for the full claim of 10% – workers should not pay for the crisis!