Thousands of local government workers and school support staff are to take part in stunts, events and mini-protests across the country today (Friday) in an attempt to persuade the Chancellor to stop the cuts and guarantee councils and schools the money to give staff a pay rise, without them having to cut jobs and services.
UNISON, Unite and the GMB, the three unions representing local government employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have organised the Pay Up Now day of action.
In towns and cities across the three nations, social workers, school crossing patrol staff, librarians, school receptionists, refuse collectors, teaching assistants, and other council and school employees will all be making their voices heard.
Earlier in the week, the Local Government Association wrote to the three unions setting out proposals for a two-year pay deal.
It would mean a pay rise of up to 16% for the lowest paid staff over the two years, and 2% for anyone on more than £19,430 a year next April, and a further 2% in April 2019.
But while the three unions are now to put the offer to their respective committees for consideration, there is huge concern about the government’s cuts to council budgets.
UNISON, Unite and the GMB have written to Philip Hammond three times this year asking to meet to talk about pay and the threat to local services and jobs. He has yet to respond.
On Tuesday the Leaders of Labour-controlled councils wrote to the Chancellor urging him to fully fund the pay offer made by the local authority employers.
UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “A pay rise for council and school support staff can’t come soon enough. But as the lowest paid staff in the public sector, they desperately need the government to stop its swingeing cuts to council budgets, deal with inadequate school funding and fully fund this pay increase.
“Half the cost of the pay increase will be recouped by the Treasury in increased tax and national insurance ‘take’ and cuts to spending on in-work benefits. This can be recycled to councils and schools.
“Council and school staff are already providing vital local services and educating children with far fewer employees than in 2010, while demands on services grow. Councils are facing real problems recruiting and retaining staff due to low pay. The government needs to recognise the importance of the jobs council and school workers do and pay up now.”
Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “Over the last seven years local government workers have seen their pay plummet in real terms by as much as 21 per cent thanks to the government’s cuts.
“It’s time that Philip Hammond and the government committed extra funds to austerity ravaged councils to protect services and give local government workers the pay rise they need.
“A failure to do so will lead to the crisis in local government deepening, services suffering and the pay misery for council workers continuing.”
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “GMB’s members are really struggling with the cost of living. Public sector pay cuts started in local government, which means local authority workers and school support staff have suffered some of the most unfair real wage reductions in the country.
“Theresa May has said that the pay cap has been lifted – now she must back up her words with action by fully funding real pay rises for all public sector workers.”
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