Public rejects government’s war on low waged local wor...

Public rejects government’s war on low waged local workers, says new poll

10 July 2014

In new independent polling by Survation, of those that stated a view:

·    70% of the public back the right to strike
·    58% back increasing council workers’ wages by £1 per hour
·    Over two thirds disagree that wage rises should be capped until 2018
·    The public trust unions to give an accurate picture of the public services

The government is being accused of waging a misguided war against the public sector which is out of step with the public’s support for low waged local authority, teaching and civil service staff.

A new poll released on the eve of tomorrow’s (Thursday 10 July) strike reveals widespread support across the generations, regions and voting intentions for the 1.6 million workforce – street cleaners, carers and school cooks among them - taking action against poverty pay.

Of those who stated a view, 59% think that the government is unfairly targeting public sector workers on pay with almost the same again (58%) saying that council workers deserve an extra £1 per hour on their wages; even among 2010 Conservative voters, support for a pay rise stands at 52%.

Over half (56%) thought it was unfair to keep the wage cap on public sector workers, whilst more than two-thirds (69%) disagree with the government position that wage rises should be capped at below inflation pay until 2018, effectively imposing an eight year pay cut on some of the poorest paid workers in the country.

In further bad news for the Conservative party’s attack machine, the poll suggests that its threat to curb the right to strike should a Tory government be elected in 2015 does not attract popular support - and that twice as many people believe the trade unions on the public services than they do the government.  

Seven in ten (70%) of all respondents who took a view on the matter say that workers have the right to strike in their call for a pay deal of above 1%; more than half (56%) of those who voted Conservative in 2010 who expressed a view agree with this.

Additionally, 52% of those respondents expressing a view trust trade unions on the state of the public services – vastly outstripping the trust in either the media (25%) or government ministers (23%). Among the 18-34 age group, 62% trust trade unions the most.

Among 2010 Lib Dem voters, 80% back the public sector workers’ right to strike, with 84% of  2010 Labour voters agreeing, while over three quarters of both the 18-34 year old age group (80%) and 55-64 year old age group (76%) say that these workers have the right to strike as part of this industrial action.

Across the regions, support is highest in the north where over half of those polled (58%) say a wage raise of £1 per hour is justified and in London where more than half (59%) back better pay.  In Scotland, four in five people (78%) back the workers’ right to strike.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This government’s ceaseless attacks on our public service workers is misguided and finds no favour with the public. They can see through this bullying for what it is – an attempt to turn friends and neighbours against the good people who care for their kids, keep their streets clean and run our valued community services, and they are not buying it.

“The public has no appetite for the government’s belittling of public sector workers, and certainly none whatsoever for the Tories’ threat to remove the right to strike action.

“People understand that poverty pay and inequality are on the rise in this country.  The rich get richer while working poor turn to food banks because in Tory-led Britain the fate for ordinary people is to work harder but get poorer.

“People value local public services and they don’t want to see those that provide them struggling to make ends meet to feed and clothe their families.”

Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer added: “While the cabinet enjoys an 11 per cent pay jump they are clobbering the army of low waged workers who hold our communities together.

“Since 2010, local government workers have endured wage cuts of 18 per cent in real terms. Pretty soon the national minimum wage will soon overtake local government pay scales; members are already forced to make awful choices between heating and eating.

“If this government was serious about economic recovery for all, it would acknowledge that for every £1 received in wages by local council workers, an average of 52p is spent supporting local shops, restaurants, and leisure amenities. Money that is recycled into the local community for the benefit of all.

“The truth is that this government does not value our public services or understand their place in the lives of the British people. If the government had even an iota of understanding then it would drop the attacks and get the employers back around the table to negotiate a fair deal for those who deliver vital local government services, from social care to refuse collection, on a daily basis.”
The results come on the day that the TUC estimates that public sector workers have lost out to the tune of £2,245 since the coalition came to power in 2010.
Unite’s local government staff will join up to two million council workers and teaching staff  tomorrow against the government public sector austerity pay policies. Unite said that this year’s pay offer of one per cent for local council staff was ‘insulting’.

Unite is seeking a £1-an-hour increase in pay for the local council workforce which has 400,000 employees earning below £15,000 a year and a million earning less than £21,000. The workforce is mainly female and part-time.

Unite’s members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland voted by 68 per cent to take strike action and by 79 per cent to take industrial action short of a strike.

Unite did not ballot its members in Scotland where the devolved administration has agreed to pay the ‘living wage’ to all council staff, currently £7.65 an hour and £8.80 in London.

Unite has about 70,000 members in local government carrying out such jobs as refuse collection,  street cleaning,  maintenance of council property, traffic enforcement, school support and care services, and grave digging.

FAQ - frequently asked questions regarding local government pay
J10 campaign page

Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 07967 665869 or Shaun Noble communications officer on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1

Notes to editors

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.