Headlines: August 22nd, 2002

The GMB union has written to local government contractors asking them to match the pay rises currently on offer to council workers. The letter contains a warning that in the absence of a positive response and an assurance that the pay increases will be fully implemented, the union will ballot its membership to take industrial action.There are currently approximately 300,000 local government workers working for contractors across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The letter is part of the union’s campaign to end the two tier workforce where contractors pay lower rates than councils to workers doing similar jobs. Following agreement earlier in the year between the Government and the unions, new outsourcing contracts must provide for contracted out staff to receive the same benefits as those employed by councils. This agreement is not retrospective.

Although the proposed two-year pay deal has not yet been signed, it is expected that it will be accepted next month by both sides. It provides for increases ranging from 7.7% to 10.9% for the lowest paid. The effect of the deal would be that in April 2003 the lowest paid worker would receive 5 pounds 32p an hour, up from the current 4 pounds .80p.