Unite, the UK’s leading union, has announced that its members in an initial 23 local authorities will begin taking strike action from next week in a dispute over pay.

Rejected pay offer

Unite members have overwhelmingly rejected the local authority employers’ pay offer of just £1,925, a poorer offer than last year, despite the cost-of-living crisis having worsened.

The first industrial action will involve Unite members at Chesterfield council who will strike next Tuesday and Wednesday (29 and 30 August). The other councils with industrial action mandates will then take strike action throughout September.

Frontline workers

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Council workers are on the frontline providing vital services to the communities they serve. It is simply unacceptable that workers have been forced onto the breadline due to years of real terms pay cuts.”

“Unite never takes a backward step in supporting its members and is dedicated to enhancing their jobs, pay and conditions. Unite will be providing its local authority members with its complete support.”

Strike mandates

The English councils that have secured mandates for strike action are: Bath and North East Somerset, Chesterfield, Coventry, Cumberland, Darlington, Haringey, Ipswich, Newham, North Tyneside, Tower Hamlets, Truro, Sefton, Southwark, Warrington, Westminster and Wigan.

The Welsh councils who are part of the industrial action campaign are: Cardiff, Cynon Valley Waste, Gwynedd and Wrexham. In addition, Tamar Bridge and Ferry Port, Greater Manchester Fire and Civil Defence and Derby Homes, whose workers are subject to local government pay, also voted in favour of strikes.

Financial struggle

A survey of Unite members in local authorities, earlier this summer, highlighted how years of pay freezes and below inflation pay deals has resulted in workers facing desperate financial choices. The survey found:

  • Nearly half (48 per cent) have struggled to afford heating, electricity and water bills 
  • 30 per cent have struggled to afford food and clothing
  • Almost a quarter (23 per cent) are skipping meals to save money
  • 17 per cent have struggled to meet rent and mortgage payments
  • Six per cent have been forced to use food banks

Tensions in the dispute have risen dramatically following a “dismissive and patronising” letter sent by local authority employers refusing to even enter into negotiations and stating its initial offer was “full and final”.

Employers increased tensions

Unite national officer Clare Keogh said: “The dismissive and patronising response from local authority employers has resulted in tensions in the dispute dramatically increasing. Workers simply can’t make ends meet, yet employers are ignoring their plight.

“Local government employers need to get their heads out of the clouds and return to the negotiating table, to make an offer which begins to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

Autumn escalation 

Following the initial September strikes, Unite will be escalating the industrial action throughout the autumn, with coordinated action, longer periods of strikes and more members joining the dispute.


Notes to editors

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.