Low paid local government workers facing poverty
A report by the New Policy Institute for UNISON shows that local government
pay has been slashed to 1990’s levels by below inflation pay settlements, a
two-year pay freeze and the employers’ failure to pay the £250 promised to
low paid workers by the Chancellor. It has declined by 13% in the last three
years alone*. Additional cuts to pay and conditions at local level are making a
difficult situation even harder for many local government workers.
More than a quarter of the workforce – 75% of whom are women – now earn less than the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour. Many are forced to rely on benefits and tax credits to keep their heads above water, and any change in their family’s situation can drag them into poverty. Meanwhile, Chief Executive pay in local government has risen by a massive 59% between 1998 and 2007**.
Ahead of a pay meeting with the local government employers on Thursday (23 Feb), UNISON is calling for a substantial increase in pay to make up for the decline in living standards. Local government workers are currently in the second year of a pay freeze – including the lowest paid workers who did not get the £250 minimum increase promised to them by George Osborne in his June 2010 Emergency Budget. 69% of NJC workers earn less than £21,000 – the Chancellor’s ‘low pay’ threshold.
The union is warning that low and diminishing pay not only has damaging implications for local government workers and their families, but also for local economies and for the quality of vital community services.
UNISON, head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “For many local government workers and their families, it’s a daily struggle to stay out of poverty. They’re doing vital work caring for the elderly, the vulnerable, for young children. And as job cuts hit, they’re picking up the pieces doing even more, for ever diminishing wages. It’s bad news for families, local economies, and for community services.
“Hundreds of thousands – especially women - are being hit hard by the Tory- led coalition’s unfair pay policy. This unprecedented squeeze cannot continue – low paid families have suffered enough. The local government employers must come forward with a decent offer on pay this year.”
Report co-author, Dr Peter Kenway, from the New Policy Institute, said:
"Local government workers are portrayed as part of a pampered public sector. With two thirds of them in manual or clerical jobs, doing important and sometimes essential jobs, this report shows what a distortion that picture is. A quarter of them earn less than the Living Wage. Since the last time pay went up, in April 2009, prices have risen 13%. Everyone is feeling the pinch but a fall in living standards this big is much more than that."
Notes to editors
*Pay has been slashed by 13% between April 2009 and Feb 2012 – taking into account inflation and the pay freeze.
**According to Audit Commission figures.
Report available from the Press Office.