Local government members to get tougher over pay

Low pay will continue to be the key and most incendiary issue for local government members this year, with a recourse to strike action a part of UNISON’s strategy to turn the tide.

Local government delegates in Glasgow this afternoon discussed how low pay was afflicting members, particularly women, with many forced to turn to food banks and payday loan sharks to solve their problems.

Members called for a stronger pay campaign, including building for industrial action.

“If ever we needed to build a pay strategy and campaign to inspire members it’s now,” said Val Rogacs, of the NJC Committee. “We need a clear vision for local government that will underpin our campaigning.

“Our members face poverty pay. Their pay is falling year–on-year in real terms. At work they are having to cope with losing half a million of our colleagues through redundancies and job losses. And there will be several billion pounds of funding cuts in local government in the next year alone.”

Jo Morgan of the national women’s committee said that women were “firmly shut out of the economic recovery.”

She added that since the financial crisis, almost one million more women had moved into typically low-paid and insecure jobs, with one in eight on zero-hours contracts.

“What that means for women is heartbreaking,” she said.

Introducing a motion on a lobbying and campaigning strategy for local government pay, Ms Rogacs said there had to be a three-pronged approach:

  • An effective strategy for political lobbying and campaigning on pay;
  • A recruitment, retention and organising strategy that is at the heart of everything the union does;
  • A high-profile media and publicity campaign.


Delegates also voted for an amendment that committed the union to “back up lobbying with a strategic programme of escalating strike action.”

The conference also discussed the way that the increasing outsourcing of council services was weakening the TUPE regulations and adding to the pressures on the NJC terms and conditions, which could “wither on the vine”.

Joyce Guthrie of the Northern Region said that local government workers were already the “poor relations” on pay across both public and private sectors.

Increased outsourcing to the private sector meant that the NJC pay and conditions faced collapse, she said. Employers were taking the opportunity to create local bargaining pay structures.

It was accepted that promoting in-house council services was the best means to retain jobs within local government and maximise the numbers of staff directly employed on NJC terms.

The service group executive was charged with campaigning for the survival of the NJC as the mechanism for pay awards for staff delivering local government services.  

A further motion was passed that supported initiatives in the local government service group to campaign for a £10 living wage.

Mark Chiverton of South East region said that the current rate of the living wage was no longer realistic. “It’s time we raised our sights.”