Councils have announced plans to freeze pay for their 1.4 million employees, in a bid to fill the gap left by their funding cuts.
With inflation reaching higher than original estimations, currently running at 4%, the pay freeze means a de facto pay cut. It applies to all council employees, except teachers and firefighters as they negotiate their deals separately.
Unions had asked for a rise of at least £250 a year in 2011, which would have added £265m to the government pay bill, employers said. They are blaming the government for leaving them £6.5bn short in the new financial year, which starts in April.
Jan Parkinson, who is the managing director of Local Government Employers, claims: “Hardworking council employees help make local government the most efficient part of the public sector. This decision has not been taken lightly. Councils are facing extremely tough choices this year and have to ask their whole workforce to recognise the need to limit spending in all areas.”
This announcement follows a row over council chiefs’ executive pay, with the community secretary, Eric Pickles, suggesting town halls should try to reduce their pay bill to save costs before cutting frontline services.
Brian Strutton, the GMB union’s national secretary for public services, said: “GMB members will be sickened by the imposition of another year’s pay freeze. These are some of the lowest-paid and hardest-working people – home helps, social workers, school dinner ladies, refuse collectors.”
Strutton also said there would be an upcoming meeting of the National Joint Council for Local Government Services, which brings together unions and employers, to discuss the issue of wages.
“On top of huge job losses and attacks on their conditions and pensions, it’s abject misery for workers in local government while fat-cat bankers who caused the recession still rake in the bonuses,”says Strutton.
The GMB has calculated that more that 160,000 jobs are now at risk in local authorities. Reforms to public sector pensions, which will say that workers should pay more into their pensions, are due next month.