Pay in local government remains significantly lower than that of public service workers in other sectors. 515,000 out of a total of 1.6m employees earn below the current living wage. The numbers earning less than the living wage in other public services such as Further, Higher Education and the NHS are relatively small.
Three years of imposed pay freeze and a 1% uplift in 2013 has resulted in an real loss of income of around 16% for local government workers since 2008. The cost of living has increased year on year with the rising prices paid for food fuel and energy rapidly outstripping pay.
Around 50% of councils have imposed cuts to local terms and conditions. These include reductions in the mileage rates paid for car users, enforced unpaid leave, a decrease in annual leave entitlement and spot salaries. A number of councils have also reduced the levels of sick pay.
The local council pay bill is now 23% lower than in 2010. Over 400,000 jobs have been lost in local government since 2008 with members doing more work for less pay. Many councils now hold significant reserves despite their intention to reduce budgets and cut services.
Local government workers are mainly employed in the area where they live. For every £1 of wages earned, 52 pence is spent in the local community. Increasing pay in local government would return more revenue and boost the local economy.
Around 40 councils have introduced the living wage and an increasing number are considering adopting the living wage in some form. Unions have not been fully engaged in this process with many councils implementing or imposing some form of payment. Only a small number have applied the living wage to outsourced workers something we believe is crucial to the process.
There is a high level of political support for the living wage and a growing voice to increase the level of the national minimum wage to that of the living wage. The Labour Party has pledged to campaign on the living wage with a focus on local government. Boris Johnson has been outspoken in his support for the London living wage. There are talks around establishing a living wage commission to supercede the low pay commission. The pay offer from employers in Scotland included implementation of the Scottish living wage at £7.50 for 2013 and £7.58 for 2014.
The TUC will be rallying around the Living Wage in their Give Britain a Pay Rise campaign.
The current government public sector pay restraint policy is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
Union policy is to defend and maintain national collective bargaining and agreements. A national pay claim around the living wage would prevent local bargaining or as in many cases the implementation of the living wage with no union involvement.
Recent pay claims have asked for a significant increase with no specific terms included.
A pay increase of £1 an hour on all pay points would achieve the current living wage as the lowest point on the NJC scale outside London.
A robust campaign focussed on the living wage and a pay rise for all local government workers fits with our Fair Pay Campaign in Local Government.
Any pay claim for the Living Wage hourly rate to be the minimum hourly rate would include an equivalent percentage increase on all other spinal column points and would include the higher rated living wage applied in London.
All NJC unions have begun the process of consulting their members on the 2014 pay claim and all unions have supported the need to lodge an early claim and run a strong campaign.
Please consult with your members in your workplace, in your branch and in your region and send us your feedback.
Options for the 2014 pay claim
1. The Living wage hourly rate to be the minimum pay rate with an equivalent percentage increase across all other spine point including London Living Wage
2. A flat rate increase of £1 an hour on all pay spine points achieving the Living Wage as the lowest spine point and applied to the London Living Wage
3. A flat rate cash payment to be applied across all spine points which would enhance the lower paid groups
4. A significant percentage increase across all spine points, raising the pay of all local government workers
Please contact your local representative or shop steward and have your say on the 2014 pay claim.
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