A significant pay rise is essential for local government and school staff, say unions

Claim calls for a wage rise of £3,000 or 10%, whichever is higher

The three local government unions, representing 1.4m council and school employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have called for a significant wage rise as they submitted their annual pay claim today (Thursday).

UNISON, GMB and Unite say a decent pay award is essential as staff continue to struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, while the value of their wages has plummeted for more than a decade.

Unless councils and schools can pay competitive rates, employees will find better-paid, less-stressful work elsewhere and new recruits will be thin on the ground, the unions say.

Their joint pay claim, which would apply from the start of April, is for all council employees to receive a wage rise of £3,000 or 10%, whichever is higher.

Council employees – including refuse collectors, librarians, teaching assistants, care workers, cleaners and catering staff – must be properly rewarded for the vital community services they provide, say the unions.

In their submission to the local government employers, the unions point out that council staff have seen 25% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010.

A wage rise well above inflation is the only way to maintain the staff levels necessary to deliver services to the public, the unions say.

Many council employees have experienced considerable increases in their workloads as a result of budget cuts and their own personal finances have taken a severe hit from the cost-of-living crisis.

Council and school workers are often in low-paid roles, with many earning little more than the minimum wage. Any failure to keep pace with costs can be disastrous for them, the three unions say.

UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “Communities rely on the services provided by council and school workers. But if staff don’t feel valued and can find better-paid work elsewhere, there’ll be no one to carry out these vital functions.

“Everyone will be worse off if local authorities don’t have enough employees to look after the most vulnerable, give children the education they need and keep neighbourhoods safe.

“A decent pay offer is essential. And with so many councils struggling financially it’s more important than ever that the Westminster government invests properly in the local government and school workforce.”

GMB national officer Sharon Wilde said: “Our vital school support staff and council workers must be offered a decent pay rise for this year.

“Members tell us their jobs have become even more stressful in the past year they are really struggling to make ends meet in this cost-of-living crisis.

“Staff are being torn between leaving the job that they love or going to other sectors where the work is less stressful and the pay is better. It’s got to stop.”

Unite national officer Clare Keogh said: “After years of real-term pay cuts, local government employers need to recognise that there is growing anger among local government workers about the way they are treated year after year in pay negotiations.

“These workers provide vital services and yet are not valued by their employer. Many union members are reporting that they cannot pay their bills, they are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent costs and some have even had to rely on food banks. We will not stand by and allow this to happen.”

Notes to editors:
– The claim also calls on employers to agree a clear plan to reach a minimum pay rate of £15 an hour in a maximum of two years, as well as an additional day of annual leave for all staff regardless of their current entitlement.

Research by Landman Economics, commissioned ahead of the pay claim, shows the cost of living has risen by 59.4% since 2010 while pay for local government staff on the national joint council rates used by most authorities has risen by just 27% in that time.

Media contacts:
UNISON M: 07834 864794 E: 
GMB M: 07958 156846 E: press.office@gmb.org.uk
Unite M 07718 666592 E: David.Carnell@unitetheunion.org