Local government unions submit derisory pay claim

UNISON members in Derbyshire on strike last year over pay

UNISON, Unite and the GMB request a cost of living pay rise for council workers for 2009-10 of just 0.9%.

The unions represent more than one million council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the claim covers all grades of workers in local government, from refuse collectors to teaching assistants, parks staff to librarians, and comes as local government unions and employers begin binding arbitration over last year's pay claim.

The wording of the claim is for "an increase of at least the level of retail price inflation [RPI], with additional salary increases for the lowest paid."

The government for years has been refusing to grant increases based on RPI inflation, which includes housing costs. Instead they have been using consumer price inflation (CPI) which is based on the prices of a selection of 'key' goods.

However, with the credit crisis and resultant collapse in house prices, RPI has now dipped below CPI for the first time in years - RPI stands at 0.9% compared to 3.3% CPI. For the unions let the employers off the hook by demanding a raise based on the lower rate of inflation, when they had been always using the rate which is now higher has provoked severe criticism from union members.

One council worker told us: "we have received below inflation pay rises - so real pay cuts - for at least 10 years. I have argued with co-workers, lefties and parts of the anarchist movement for a couple of years that the unions are not interested in getting pay increases for their members. And that their interests are aligned more with the Tory employers and the Labour government.

"The unions' sabotage of the pay disputes of the last two years should have made this clear. And if that wasn't enough, this should be the last nail in the coffin for many people's ongoing faith in the unions as defenders of workers' interests.

"At least in those years UNISON made a pretence of requesting a rise more in line with inflation and then didn't bother fighting for them. Now it's not even bothering to request a rise which comes anywhere near covering the rises in prices we are seeing."

"The national employers recently have been offering increases of around 2%: 2-4% lower than what the unions have been requesting. If that pattern were repeated this year, it could result in local government workers clearly see their pay cut.

Other critics have pointed out that while official RPI has fallen, the cost of living continues to rise, and that the rise is significantly sharper for the lowest paid who spend a larger proportion of their income on essentials such as food, transport and energy.

As the pound continues to fall in value prices of some imported goods have gone up, with many more set to rocket in the near future, further hitting workers' purchasing power.

Posted By

Jan 26 2009 17:24


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