Council and school workers deserve much more than below-inflation pay offer as strike ballot begins

Recommendation is to vote yes to strike action

UNISON will today (Wednesday) begin to ballot more than a third of a million council and school staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for strike action over their “inadequate” pay offer.

The union is recommending employees – including refuse collectors, teaching assistants and social workers – vote ‘yes’ to strike action.

These workers have kept services running in local communities throughout the difficult months of the pandemic and deserve a decent rise, says UNISON.

Most staff have been offered just 1.75% by local government employers, with 2.75% for those on the lowest pay level. As the rate of inflation currently stands at 4.2% (consumer price index), this amounts to a significant pay cut, says the union.

Councils can avoid months of disruption to community services by improving the offer and giving workers the proper pay rise they deserve, UNISON says.

Over the past decade, the value of local government pay has reduced by around a quarter (25%).

Earlier this year UNISON submitted a joint pay claim – along with GMB and Unite – for at least 10% for all council and school support employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This would have ensured the lowest paid employees earned were just above the new real living wage rate of £9.90 per hour (outside London). The employers’ current offer will only just put staff above the government’s new statutory minimum wage of £9.50, which comes in from April next year.

UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Council and school workers have gone the extra mile throughout the pandemic, keeping schools open, ensuring communities are safe and providing essential services often at risk to their own health.

“This inadequate pay offer shows they’re undervalued, particularly with the cost of living being ramped up. They should be given the credit they’re due and rewarded properly.

“It’s still not too late for the employers to do the right thing by making a decent offer to avoid strike action. The government should also play its part by providing the necessary funds.”

Notes to editors:
– Ballot papers are being mailed out to 370,000 UNISON members from today (1 December). The ballot will close on 14 January 2022.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.