Local government staff at breaking point and cutbacks to blame, says UNISON

Local government workers are experiencing unprecedented pressure and stress in the workplace – and government cuts are to blame, says a report from UNISON published today (Wednesday).

­­­­The report – Under Pressure, Underfunded and Undervalued ­­­­– is based on a survey of more than 2,000 local council staff, including teaching assistants, social workers, librarians and carers who look after people in their own homes.

The findings highlight how staff morale and working conditions have suffered as a result of government costcutting, with more than half a million jobs in local government axed since 2010.

Three quarters (75%) of council workers said workload and pressure have increased in the last 12 months, nearly two thirds (63%) believe morale has declined and nearly three quarters (73%) report rising stress levels.

Three in five (60%) respondents said they are working beyond their contracted hours with nearly a quarter (23%) doing unpaid overtime.

A key reason for staff shortages is that employers are failing to replace workers when they leave, according to more than one in five (21%) respondents.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of local government workers who took part in the survey have experienced a job review or reorganisation at work that has led to cuts both in staffing and resources in some cases.

Under Pressure, Underfunded and Undervalued also reveals that bullying in the workplace is a major issue for local government staff. Three in five respondents (60%) have faced at least one form of abuse such as violence, verbal or physical threats, and bullying or harassment.

This abuse is most common from people using services but managers too are to blame as cash-strapped councils come under increasing pressure, says UNISON. Seventeen per cent of respondents had witnessed harassment from employers and 13 per cent been victims.

UNISON’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “Council staff are being worked into the ground because of government cutbacks.

“If you neglect the people who empty our bins, who support our children and care for our vulnerable relatives then you neglect the services we all depend upon.

“Everyone suffers if those on the front line are so stressed and undermined they cannot do their jobs properly.”

Notes to editors:

  • Under Pressure, Underfunded and Undervalued is based on a survey of 2,200 local government workers by Incomes Data Research (IDR).
  • A summary of the findings can be found here.
  • Today is the second day of the annual UNISON local government conference in Brighton. National conference starts tomorrow and ends on Friday.

 Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen T: 0203 627 2392 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Sophie Goodchild T: 0203 627 2391 M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk