Surrey County Council staff vote overwhelmingly to reject pay offer

Over 87% of UNISON members reject ‘inadequate’ pay offer and vote to move to a formal strike ballot

UNISON has entered into a formal dispute with Surrey County Council after 87% of staff represented by the union at the authority voted to reject the employer’s 2023/24 pay offer.

The union, which represents care workers, refuse collectors, social workers, teaching assistants, librarians, street cleaners and other staff at the council and local schools – has told senior managers at the authority it will prepare for a strike ballot if an improved pay offer isn’t forthcoming.

In the next step of their campaign for fair pay, council employees will also be holding a demonstration outside the next meeting of the council’s people, performance and development committee on 2 May. Workers will lobby councillors and call for a significantly improved pay offer as the only way to avoid industrial action.

Surrey County UNISON branch secretary Paul Couchman said: “Staff have sent an overwhelming message to the council and have roundly rejected its opening pay offer.

“After years of below-inflation pay increases and with the soaring cost of living, staff are struggling.

“With many bills set to rise further still this month, enough is enough.

“The strength of feeling on this issue is clear. The ball is now firmly in the county council’s court and the clock is ticking. Councillors can avoid disruptive industrial action, but they need to get serious and make a significantly improved pay offer.”

Notes to editors:

– Surrey County Council negotiates pay locally with staff and isn’t part of the national local government pay scheme, used by the majority of councils in England.

– The county council made an offer to increase its pay budget by 5% overall in 2023/24. This meant the lowest paid staff would receive an increase of between 7 to 8%, with the vast majority receiving less than 5%. This fell far short of UNISON’s claim, which was for a 12% inflation-linked increase, with a new minimum wage of £12 per hour.

– Over 87% of UNISON members voted to reject this pay offer in a consultation exercise and say they want to move to a formal strike vote to secure an increase in pay.

– A demonstration will take place from 12pm-1.30pm on Tuesday 2 May ahead of the council’s people, performance and development committee meeting. This is the body that decides pay for all council staff. The meeting is at County Hall, 11 Woodhatch Road, Cockshot Hill, Reigate RH2 8EF and staff will gather outside the main entrance. UNISON members will be available for comment and photographs.

– Nationally, the pay offer for 2023/24 from the local government employers has also been rejected by UNISON and the union is currently preparing to launch an industrial action ballot. Read more about this here.