The case for better pay in local government is ‘compelling and clear cut’, says UNISON 

Christina McAnea addresses local government conference

An improved pay deal for council and school employees is vital for the economy and community services, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said today (Monday) in a keynote speech.

She was addressing the union’s annual local government conference in Liverpool as workers continue to vote in one of the biggest strike ballots the union has undertaken.

More than a third of a million council and school staff are being asked to vote on a £1,925 offer in England and Wales, significantly below UNISON’s claim for inflation plus 2%.

Christina McAnea told delegates: “Across the UK it often feels like local government is the first to be cut. And while some employers are sympathetic, all governments, especially the one in Westminster, say they can’t afford to fund services.

“Yet if ministers met UNISON’s pay claim in full, around half the cost could be recouped. That’s because more would be raised in tax and less paid out in benefits.

“But cutting funding for local government – and refusing decent pay for council and school workers – is a deliberate political choice.

“The case for better pay is compelling and clear cut. But the strike vote isn’t just to get more pay, it’s to save services and shine a spotlight on the chronic underfunding of essential services.

“In a cost-of-living crisis, workers have options. They can take a second job or get better-paid work elsewhere. And people are leaving.

“Just as in the NHS, staff vacancies in councils and schools are endemic. Recruiting and keeping social workers, care staff, planners, environmental health officers, refuse drivers and everyone else is becoming difficult. Services and communities are suffering.

“The damage this causes is not easily fixed. It endures for generations.

“Paying employees fairly means it’s easier to recruit and retain staff. That has to be good for communities and everyone needing support.

“UNISON wants to work with employers, local authorities and schools to lobby and put pressure on governments across the UK for a fairer deal.”

Notes to editors:
– Christina McAnea was speaking to delegates on the second day of UNISON’s two-day local government conference in Liverpool. This will be followed by the union’s national conference taking place from tomorrow to Friday (13 to 16 June).
– 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.

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