Headlines: May 2nd, 2003

Public service unions have reacted angrily to the employers’ submission to the Local Government Pay Commission. UNISON, the United Kingdom’s largestĀ  trade union, has branded the employers’ views as “dangerous and dated” andĀ  the GMB has stressed its opposition to the idea of local settlements.The Employers Organisation said it was putting the improvement of public services at the heart of the pay negotiations and wanted the pay commission to recognise that there were 400 employers and not just one.

UNISON is especially concerned that the employers’ approach will condemn many low-paid women in local authority jobs to even lower pay. The union’s National Secretary for Local Government, Heather Wakefield said it was astonishing how out of touch the employers were about the local government workforce. Over half, she said, worked part-time with their shifts designed to deliver services when they were needed, and not just between nine and five. Three quarters of the workforce were female and formed the biggest group of low paid workers.

“We fear that the employers wish to use local bargaining to ‘peg’ women’s jobs to market rates, which they know can be lower than those in councils. We have already seen evidence of this with homecare workers, who are facing increased privatisation and erosion of their wages,” she said.

The GMB, too, is concerned about the impact of local bargaining which it fears leaves open the question of how councils will determine grades and pay to meet equal pay and equity requirements. It says the focus on pay related to local labour market rates goes against current trends and entails a danger of sex discrimination. The union said the employers’ proposals would not alleviate fundamental problems such as levels of pay being lower than those in the economy as a whole and those in the private sector in particular. They also failed to address hidden low pay as a consequence of working practices such as term time working and the significant pay differences across local authorities and regions for the same jobs.