Three unions representing more than 1.6 million local government employees in schools and councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have submitted a pay claim that attempts to narrow the growing gap between declining wages and the rising cost of living.
The claim for the year from next April seeks to move the lowest paid staff onto the real living wage of £8.45 an hour (£9.75 in London). In addition the unions want all employees to receive a five per cent pay rise.
The claim follows eight years of government-imposed pay restraint, which has seen wages either frozen or held to a one per cent increase.
UNISON, Unite and the GMB say that school and council employees’ living standards have plummeted as their wages have fallen way behind inflation.
UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “Local government has the lowest paid workers in the public sector, and many council employees and their families are struggling to keep afloat. With every price increase, their standard of living gets worse.
“New recruits and experienced staff are essential for the smooth running of services. Yet poverty pay means local authorities are struggling to attract and hold on to staff, and those left are doing more for less.
“Theresa May needs to show the country she’s listening to the concerns of ordinary people by coming up with the cash to give dedicated public service workers a long overdue, decent pay rise.”
Unite national officer for local authorities Fiona Farmer said: “Local government workers in waste, refuse, maintenance, schools and leisure have suffered from years of austerity with significant cuts to services, jobs and pay.
“They provide an invaluable service at the heart of their communities on a daily basis and deserve better than the pay cuts that have left them struggling to make ends meet.
“Theresa May and the employers need to recognise the loyalty local government workers have shown in the face of savage cuts and begin to address poverty pay by accepting this pay claim.”
Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services, said: “Local government workers are suffering the worst squeeze on their pay in living memory, contributing to a public sector recruitment and retention crisis that is undermining the quality of services for everyone.
“Enough is enough. Our vital and under-appreciated staff must get a pay rise of at least five per cent to compensate for almost a decade of real-terms wage cuts. That is what they need and deserve.
“Last week’s election result was a clear vote for a new approach and against the running down of public services. It’s time for local government employers and Theresa May to listen.”