UNISON’s spring offensive on pay for local government workers

Over 55 per cent of local government workers earn less than the average allowance paid to councillors – £12,500 – leaving them among the poorest paid workers in the public sector.

UNISON, representing 800,000 local government workers, is seeking a flat rate increase of £1,750 to give a minimum wage of £11,017, or a six per cent increase, whichever is greater.

UNISON will take part in the first formal round of pay talks with employers at the National Joint Council for Local Government Services today at midday at the Royal United Services Institute, Whitehall.

UNISON’s Local Government National Secretary, Malcolm Wing said:

Ê”We have a ridiculous situation where the allowances paid to some councillors are higher than the wages paid to the majority of staff. Ê

“While minimum rates of pay in the Treasury, Home Office and Foreign Office have gone up by 32 per cent since 1998, local government workers have become the poor relations of the public sector.

“Government should act as a model employer, setting standards for the rest of the economy. In local government it is setting a bad example and staff are voting with their feet and walking out the door.”

Key points:

. ÊÊÊ277,000 workers earn less than £5 an hour;

. ÊÊÊ855,000 earn less than £13,500 basic pay – national average basic wage was £19,406 in 2000;

. ÊÊÊ82 per cent of low paid workers in local government are women – part-time women workers form almost half the workforce yet nine in ten are low paid;

. ÊÊÊwomen earn 66 per cent of men’s wages – one of the worst gender pay gaps in the public sector and in the wider economy. The external pay gap between women in local government and men in the overall economy has widened;

. ÊÊÊnursery nurses pay fell from 51 per cent of teachers’ pay to 44 per cent between 1995 and 2001 — teaching assistants’ wages from 45 per cent to 38 per cent;

A recent survey found twice as many councils facing recruitment and retention problems last year as in 1995 — with particular difficulties in social care. 50 per cent of councils surveyed had 16 per cent vacancy rates for social workers and 12 per cent for home care staff.

The problem has been compounded in areas with low unemployment. In Coventry, for instance, competition from local supermarkets was cited as a problem in recruiting and keeping home care workers.

The survey also found councils facing serious difficulties in attracting and keeping IT staff, occupational therapists, and trading standards and environmental health officers.