Headlines: April 9th, 2009

Local government employers are being urged to open talks over their formal 0.5 per cent pay offer to council staff. Trade unions, UNISON, Unite and the GMB, which have met to consider their reaction to the offer, condemned it as totally unacceptable and called for meaningful negotiations as a matter of urgency.

Following their joint meeting they described the offer as “mean and paltry” and said it would be worth just three pence an hour to hundreds of thousands of lower-paid local government workers. For groups such as social workers and planners where, the unions say, there are already large numbers of vacancies, the increase would be no more than 7p an hour.

Heather Wakefield, head of local government at UNISON, said: “How can the employers expect their hard-pressed workforce to exist on this breathtakingly mean offer of a paltry 3p an hour extra – just over a pound a week or 55 pounds a year?” The offer, she said, was not realistic and the union were aware that the employers had already set aside money to fund an increase of between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent.

Ms Wakefield added: “How can they hope to recruit and retain enough social workers to make sure that children at risk are protected when they are offering a ridiculously low amount – what sort of carrot is this?”

The Local Government Association has said a key element of the offer is ensuring that this year’s pay settlement is affordable to councils and taxpayers. Sir Steve Bullock, Chair of the Association’s HR panel, said: “The tough economic times, the low inflation rate, the pressure on public sector spending and the increased demands on council services mean that the employers have to make some tough decisions on pay and spending.”

Only last month the conciliation service, ACAS, awarded an additional 0.3 per cent to last year’s pay award, bringing it to 2.75 per cent.