Pay walk-out fears loom over council

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

HUNDREDS of Wigan Council workers and school support staff are being balloted for strikes.

The decision by the town hall’s biggest union Unison follows a rejection of a one per cent pay offer from local authority employers.

Unison confirmed local government and school members would now vote in the coming weeks over launching a campaign of industrial action.

The move followed a consultative ballot which showed 70 per cent of Unison members opposed a pay offer the union said was worth a below-inflation one per cent for most workers.

Employees covered by the offer include teaching assistants, planners, administrators, social workers and engineers.

A spokesman for the council said: “We’re not aware of any proposed strike action.”

Unison says local government workers have endured three consecutive years of pay freezes, followed by below-inflation rises for the past two years, leaving their pay reduced by almost 20 per cent since the current government came to power.

A Wigan Unison activist said: “Our members need a pay packet that recognises the vital job they do. For anyone working in local government, the reality of everyday life is looking pretty bleak.

“Despite the government’s boasts about a recovery, our members in local government have been offered an increase of just one per cent, with slightly more for the lowest paid who are perilously close to falling below the minimum wage.

“Given that real take-home pay in the public sector is one per cent lower than it was a year ago, this offer is not a rise at all – it just means more treading water.”

National officer Heather Wakefield said: “Our members have made it clear that this pay offer is the straw that breaks the camel’s back after years of pay freezes and below-inflation rises.

“This offer is effectively another pay freeze for the majority of our local government and school members, and they have used this consultation to send a strong message that it is insulting and unacceptable.

“Local government workers have kept services running in our communities in the face of the Government’s harsh austerity agenda, and they deserve more than just a bare minimum pay increase.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said that in this “unprecedentedly tough financial climate” councils were committing to ensuring that employees receive a pay rise and that the lowest paid receive the biggest increase.”

And it remained frustrating that Unison had “failed to recognise this”.

He said: “We know that these have been difficult times for the local government workforce who have worked wonders to keep vital local services running while councils are tackling the biggest cuts in living memory.

“We believe that this is a fair deal for our employees.”