Monthly Archives: March 2013

Public Sector Pay Background & Car Allowance Threat

Local Government Pay Versus Public Sector Counterparts

Alongside their counterparts in the public sector, pay for our members working in local government is far lower than the pay for equivalent workers – as it has been for some time. The table below shows how the bottom five pay grades in local government have fallen well below the level of pay for equivalent pay points for police staff, staff employed in higher education, probation and NHS employees. The bottom pay rate for local government workers is over £2000 a year lower than equivalent NHS and Probation staff receive and more than £2,500 a year less than equivalent Police staff.

The Employer’s own 2011 Local Government Pay and Workforce Report states that “local government have the lowest average earnings compared to other groups of workers in the public sector”.

Table below: lowest NJC Pay Points Compared to Equivalent Police, Higher Education and Probation Employees:

Pay Points Across the Public Sector

In light of the impending transfer of public health services to local authorities, the comparison between pay for workers in local government and the NHS is particularly relevant. Local government is in direct competition with the NHS in many local labour markets and low pay in local government will impact on the ability of local authorities to recruit and retain staff and their loyalty in the future.

Car allowances and mileage rates under attack

Currently the Employers are offering our members a 1% pay rise in return for cuts to car mileage rates this year, the arbitration clause in the Green Book and further cuts next year. This includes removing NJC mileage rates from our collective agreement – the Green Book – and replacing them with HMRC rates (45p per mile.) This rate is too low to compensate local government workers properly for use of their cars, especially given the large increases in petrol prices in recent years and the fact that car allowances have been frozen since 2010. NJC car allowances need review but on the basis that our members are properly reimbursed for using their cars for work purposes.

UNISON has proposed to the Employers that the NJC uses the AA guides on motoring costs recently adopted for NHS employees as part of an NJC green travel scheme to include other modes of transport, public transport, car pools and the full costs of running a car. The Employers will only consider this if any resulting policy is voluntary.

Implementation of HMRC rates has serious implications for many of our members delivering frontline services. Many local government staff need to use their cars to do their jobs.

A UNISON survey of 14,800 local government members carried out in February found that social workers, environmental health officers, planning officers, trading standards officers and housing officers are being particularly hard hit by local cuts to car allowances.

The table below sets out in full extent to which our members are subsidising their employer. The figures stated have been arrived at by comparing the rate for essential car users allowances, stuck at 2010 levels, with the actual cost of travel in 2012. To obtain accurate figures for the actual cost of travel, UNISON commissioned a technical expert to up-rate the mileage formula for 2011 and 2012. The table below sets out the subsidies according to distance travelled and engine size.

Essential car user subsidy provided by NJC workers, 2012:

Essential Car User Subsidy

So, an NJC worker travelling 11,000 miles in a 1200 cc engine sized car, is paying £489 from their own wages to simply carry out their job.

UNISON are negotiating hard with the employers’ side (the Local Government Association) to arrive at an acceptable offer that really does recognise the sacrifices members have made to keep local government afloat.


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Pay Update: UNISON’s NJC Committee meets

UNISON’s NJC (National Joint Council) Committee met on Friday 15 March before a meeting with GMB and Unite at the NJC Trade Union Side. Your Regional representatives on the Committee had a detailed discussion about the current state-of-play following the Local Government Employers’ (LGE) pay offer, which the NJC Committee rejected at its earlier meeting on 27 February.

The Committee heard that NJC pay has declined by 16% since 2009, when there was a small pay increase. Since that date, pay has been frozen, while the cost of living has risen by 18%. At the same time, around 300,000 jobs have gone through redundancy and deletion of vacant posts in local government. Our members are doing much more, for much less.

Head of Local Government,Heather Wakefield Heather Wakefield, told the meeting that she felt that there was no mandate from local authorities for the offer that has been made by the Local Government  Employers because: 

  • At least three Regional Employer bodies have stated their support for an increase of 1% with no ‘strings’, in line with government pay policy and other councils agree
  • 25 councils are now paying the Living Wage and more are following. If councils can afford the Living Wage, they can afford an increase for all NJC workers
  • Councils not in the NJC who have settled pay this year have settled above 1%
  • The overall NJC pay bill fell by 9.3% between 2010/11 and 2011/12, with a similar drop in the previous year
  • Some senior HR managers have expressed dismay at the offer
  • The Chair of the Public People Managers Association (PPMA) had stated publicly that any cuts to conditions would only be ‘symbolic’
  • Some councils – like Oxford City – have agreed a higher pay increase and a local Living Wage, in return for opting out of the NJC. The employers stance is breaking up sector-wide collective bargaining, which UNISON supports

Many councils have also cut conditions of work and redundancy pay, whilePay Matters spending £ millions on consultants and agency workers which they could be investing in their own staff through a decent pay increase. Council reserves have risen from £13 to £16 billion in the last two years!!! Councils are putting money in the bank, but not into the pay packets of local government workers.

The Committee noted that there had been some early responses to the e-mail sent to all councillors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, supporting an improved offer.

The Committee agreed that:

  • We should press ahead with urgent negotiations to improve the offer, but not be drawn into lengthy discussions which will prevent members being consulted at the earliest opportunity
  • All branches and Regions should lobby councillors hard over the next two weeks to secure agreement for an improved offer
  • Negotiators should follow the decision of UNISON’s NJC Committee and the NJC Trade Union Side in 2011 not to negotiate over reductions to Part 2 conditions such as sick pay
  • All members will be consulted over any final offer through branches, using branch ballots where possible
  • Branches should work closely with GMB and Unite activists at local level to ensure a united opposition to the LGE ‘offer’
  • NJC pay should be at the heart of UNISON’s recruitment and organising activities

A new leaflet detailing the state of public sector pay have been produced by UNISON and is available here for download.

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Putting Pressure on Councils Over Pay

The Employers have responded to the Trade Union Side’s pay claim for 2013-14 with the two options outlined below, both of which UNISON has rejected for the reasons given.. 

UNISON are putting  pressure on the Local Government Employers (LGE) to return to negotiations quickly, with an offer that which really does recognise the sacrifices members have made to keep local government afloat in spite of all the cuts to service and redundancies.

Since April 2010 the National Joint Council (NJC) workforce has beenPay Matters suffering the effects of a long and painful pay freeze, across-the-board job cuts and rolling re-structures and redundancies. Some councils have lost over one third of all posts.  UNISON believes that those who are keeping essential services going by covering for lost jobs deserve a fair pay rise that recognises and rewards their loyalty in these difficult times.

A cut in pay of 18% in real terms

Since 2010 pay for the local government workforce has dropped, in real terms, by a staggering 18%. Our members have lost almost 1/5th of their earnings. In addition, many councils have cut unsocial hours and overtime payments, hours of work, car allowances and redundancy pay.  Others have introduced unpaid annual leave and term-time only working and have cut pay and frozen annual increments. Many have also introduced car parking charges. Local government pay and terms and conditions continue to be the lowest in the whole of the public sector and continue to decline in relation to NHS staff and others. The lowest paid receive only £6.30 per hour – that’s just 11p above the National Minimum Wage.

What have the Employers offered?

The Employers’ side have offered 1% increase in return for cuts to car allowances and replacement of the unilateral arbitration clause.

In the event that this offer is not accepted, staff are then being faced with a “no strings” ‘punishment’ increase of 1% for those earning up to scale point 10 – £13,874 and an increase of just 0.6% for those earning £14,733 – scale point 11 or above.

Is there a mandate for this offer?

It is unclear where the Employers are getting their mandate for this offer from:

  • Several Regional councils have publicly supported a no-strings, 1% increase in line with Government public sector pay policy – an increase that falls well short of our claim, but which is the minimum any public sector worker should receive this year according to the Chancellor
  • At least 50 councils are prepared to pay, or have pledged to pay, the Living Wage. This amounts to an 18.25% increase on the lowest NJC pay rate. An increase above 1% without strings for all must therefore be affordable
  • Councils not covered by the NJC who have settled pay for 2013 are paying at least 1%  – some up to 2% 

The National Situation: Low Pay and Debt

  • Since 2010, over 260,000 jobs have been lost in local government through redundancies and deletion of vacant posts, leaving existing staff to cover over the cracks as demand for services increases
  • A recent survey of over 14,800 UNISON members showed that more than 80% feel that workload, pressure and stress has increased since 2010 and over 70% feel that workplace stress is harming their personal and working lives
  • 53% of UNISON members in our survey are in debt and over 55% of them have debts of over £5000 
  • Many part-time workers have lost Working Tax Credit due to the increase in the hours threshold   
  • Frozen pay harms the local economy.  Public spending plays a crucial role in supporting economic growth and job creation. Crucially, local government workers re-spend 52.5 pence in every pound they receive in wages in their local economy

A decent pay rise is affordable – and necessary

UNISON believes that a decent pay rise for local government workers to make up for lost earnings is affordable – and necessary:

  • With the number of jobs falling drastically, there has been a corresponding drop in the basic local government pay bill (excluding teachers). In 2011/12, it dropped by over 10% to £23.9 billion, when RPI inflation is taken into account – on top of a similar decrease in 2010/11 
  • In addition to the reduction in pay bill, councils have also taken the decision to increase the amount they hold in reserves.  Non-school reserves increased to over £16 billion in England alone by 31 March 2012. Over £4 billion of this was in unallocated reserves
  • Around £1 billion on the basic NJC pay bill in 2013-14 would provide our members with a pay rise which would start to make up for the dramatic drop in their earnings since 2010  
  • To fill the staffing gaps left by drastic cuts, councils are also increasing the amounts being spent on agency workers. Millions of pounds that could be used to secure the jobs of our members working in-house  and pay them a decent wage are being wasted on costly external consultants from multi-national accountancy firms, called in to make cuts and re-organise services
  • With a falling pay bill it is unclear why middle earners in local government – like nursery nurses, social workers, customer service staff and engineers – should be punished with a token 0.6% pay offer. A salary of £14,733 is still well below the government’s own low pay threshold of £21,000.  The local government workforce as a whole is very poorly paid – with 502,500 NJC employees – 31% of the workforce – earning less than £15,000 a year and over 1,000,000 earning less than £21,000
  • Mid-point earnings in 2012 for the economy as a whole were £26,500, compared to £24,312 for local government – that’s 8.26% lower. There is no public sector pay premium in local government!!

Times are tough and that the government has singled councils out for the harshest austerity measures within the public sector. However, councils need their employees more than ever to keep services going and retain their allegiance for even tougher times ahead. It is clear that they can afford a higher basic pay award this year and that the loyalty of our members is severely stretched by the one that has been made.

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Pay Update – Unions to Meet

UNISON are calling for a substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the living wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point. The three-year pay freeze means that, since 2009, pay for the NJC workforce has fallen by a shocking 13% and is now more than 10% below where it was in 1996.

The union’s aim is to restore pay levels, bring them in line withPay Matters inflation and the cost of living, and in the longer term achieve a living wage as the baseline for NJC wages.

UNISON’s NJC Committee voted unanimously to reject the employers offer when it met on 27 February. The Committee believes that neither 1% with ‘strings’ or the ‘punishment option’ of 1% for employees on scale points 4-10 and 0.6% for everyone else come anywhere near what we need – or deserve.

18% Local Government Pay Lost Since 2010

UNISON have done up-to-the-minute calculations on how much pay we have lost in local government since 2010 when the Coalition took power and the employers stopped giving us pay rises. It’s a massive 18% when inflation is taken into account! But while we have lost almost 1/5 of our earnings, 260,000 jobs have ‘gone’ from local government with redundancies and/or deletion of frozen posts. It’s us and local government workers like us who have filled the gaps and kept services going – with no thanks from the coalition government which has slashed council budgets.

What Happens Next?

UNISON’s NJC Committee will meet on Friday, 15 March to discuss the next steps in the pay campaign. UNISON will then be meeting GMB and Unite representatives in the Joint Trade Union Side and will be aiming to get agreement between the three unions on the next steps and a joint campaign.

All three unions want the employers to see sense and return to negotiations quickly with a substantially improved offer (see here for the joint unions’ pay claim). They can afford it and that many councils want to pay more. The total amount spent on pay has been falling for some years, while most councils have been putting money into reserves. Between 2011 and 2012, the pay bill fell by over 10%, on top of a similar drop between 2010 and 2011. There will have been a further fall since April 2012 too. Councils have saved huge amounts of money, while we have been working harder and harder.

You Will Be Consulted

We will consult you over the current offer – or any improved one. We will be asking you whether you accept or reject the offer and whether you will be prepared to take strike action or other forms of industrial action to get a better one if you think it is not good enough.

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Appeal Against the Cuts to Councillors

On Wednesday 6 March the full Kensington and Chelsea Council met to debate and vote on the budget for 2013-14. This included a reduction in government grant of £8.5 million for the coming financial year which will bring with it more redundancies, privatisations, service cuts and threats to members terms and conditions.

Branch Secretary, Sonya Howard, submitted a strong witten rebuke to the1PM_9226 Council’s cuts policy and asked them to reconsider – and consider all the other options.

This is the full text of her appeal:

Dear Councillor,

Our members have had a very tough three years. They have been subjected to rolling restructures, cuts in services they deliver and believe in, forced into early retirements, made redundant, asked to work longer hours doing more – covering for empty posts – and have been rewarded with a zero pay increase. In fact, their pay has fallen by 15% since 2010 once inflation is taken into account.

If the brakes are not put on the rolling policy to cut jobs and spending by the end of the decade there will just be skeleton service consisting of social care and waste disposal.

Cuts to pay and conditions have NOT saved jobs and have in fact exacerbated the situation.

Promises to save jobs by outsourcing services have proved hollow. For example the members recently TUPE’d over to Hestia from Oremi and The Grove found themselves on the first day of their new employment facing either a massive pay cut to do the same job or redundancy.

Tri borough has led to colleagues across the three boroughs basically working side by side but on vastly different pay – with the Kensington and Chelsea staff on the least. Our members are covering the service gaps through goodwill, dedication and unpaid overtime, but are receiving no recognition for doing so

There is plenty of money available not to cuts these jobs and service – there are tens of millions being spent on the Space programme; millions being spent on fattening up services for private companies like BT to run; tens of millions being spent on buildings and pavements; millions being spent of making people redundant or making them retire early when they could keep on contributing to society and to the economy. After all this, there are still many tens of millions sat in the Council’s bank account – money accrued from the past by our members who have saved precious taxpayer pennies every year by cutting out waste and transforming frontline services that vulnerable people rely on.

Clearly Kensington and Chelsea Council are facing another drop in their grant from government of £8.5million, but are cutting jobs and service the only answer?

Once again we ask you not to make any further budget cuts. We are aware of this Government austerity measure but ask you to consider alternatives The post-war welfare state was built, at a time when In 1945 Britain’s debt stood at 250% of GDP – roughly 5 times what it is today.  At that point an extraordinary thing happened a publicly funded health service free at the point of use – the NHS – in 1946. A massive slum clearance programme was carried out, and council houses built the ancient universities were revived, pensions provided and welfare to the poor. They trained ex-soldiers to become teachers.

As the recognised Trade Unions representing a large number of employees here at Kensington and Chelsea we ask the following:

  • An end to forced redundancies and job cuts
  • Cease spending huge amounts of money on external consultants and privatisation initiatives, as well as agency staff.
  • Work with the unions and staff to find ways to make saving and continue delivering the first class services that we have worked hard over the years to  maintain the council good reputation for service excellence.

Sonya Howard

Kensington & Chelsea Branch Secretary

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PCS Union to Strike

PCS (the Public and Commercial Services union) has announced a series of industrial actions starting on budget day with a strike (20 March) and continuing for three months with a series of actions.

Union members are unhappy with cuts to pay, pensions and workingPCS Strike Picket conditions. They intend to use this action to press for a an inflation matching pay increase and to get government ministers to talk with their official regarding issues facing members cause by the cuts.

The PCS is the UK 5th largest union with 250,000 members – most of whom work in government departments other public bodies. These include jobcentres and benefits and tax offices; UK Border Agency and customs staff at borders; passport agency employees; admin and training staff in prisons; driving examiners, coastguards, and staff at the DVLA; staff at some museums and galleries; and Police Community Support Officers.

The union is seeking to ensure that all employees receive an increase in salary that enables them to maintain their standard of living (based on the rate of inflation) and to keep pace with increases applied elsewhere in both the IT Sector and the wider private sector. The pay claim they have made is for 5% pay rise, or £1,200 as well as:

More details here.

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Unison’s NJC Committee Rejects Pay Offer

UNISON’s NJC Committee met last week to consider the response to the two options in the Local Government Employer’s (LGE) offer on pay for 2013-2014 (see previous post). After a detailed and very considered debate, the Committee decided to:Pay Matters

  • Reject both options
  • Inform the LGE of UNISON’s decision and get them back into negotiations on an improved offer
  • Consult members on both options through branches asking whether they are prepared to be formally balloted to take some form of industrial
  • Get the support of GMB and Unite
  • Put immediate pressure on the significant number of councils which have indicated that they are willing to pay at least 1% or are committed to paying the Living Wage, to make the LGE see sense and make a decent offer
  • Build on our Pay Matters campaign to create immediate and longer-term pressure on councils and the LGE to recognise that local government workers can no longer hold council services together on poverty pay and bargain basement conditions
  • Make UNISON’s strong case for a real alternative to cuts more forcefully

Why the ‘Options’ are not Acceptable

In reaching its decision to reject the LGE offer, the Committee made the following points:

NJC pay and conditions already the worst in the public sector

  • NJC pay has fallen by 15% since 2010 once inflation is taken into account
  • Since 1997, pay rises were below inflation in seven of those 15 years and just at inflation levels or barely above in the rest – at times when councils could have afforded more. This has just made the current situation worse
  • NJC pay is by far the lowest in the public sector and the conditions are also the worst. We cannot see them cut further

Government pay policy is for 1% without strings

  • The government’s public sector pay policy is for a 1% increase. 1% does not meet our claim, but is the minimum NJC workers should get- without strings!
  • Some groups in the civil service and elsewhere have got higher increases this year. Local government workers should not be treated worse again.
  • NJC workers earning less than £21,000 – over 70% of the workforce – did not receive the £250 promised by the Chancellor in the last two years. Other public sector groups did

More cuts to come…and no real improvements to the Green Book

  • The LGE’s agenda for the future is clearly to cut other conditions – especially sick pay. The ‘list’ in Option 1 is a hostage to fortune
  • The employers have made it clear that any improvements would have to be paid for by cuts elsewhere and would not be applied to councils which have already cut those conditions or be incorporated into the Green Book
  • Many UNISON members are already subsidising employers with the shift to HMRC mileage rates and have had parking charges imposed. In negotiations we asked the LGE to consider a new, ‘green’ transport policy that rewarded our members properly for use of their cars and other vehicles. They would only do so if any new agreement was voluntary and not part of the Green Book. It would not apply to councils which have already cut mileage rates!
  • The one day extra leave offered would only apply to those on the basic 21-day entitlement – a small minority of the workforce.  And some councils have been cutting leave and proposing or enforcing unpaid annual leave

Option 2 is a ‘punishment’ option

  • The LGE’s Option 2 is a ‘punishment’ option. Our members above scale point 10 are not well paid and have also had their pay frozen for three years. They should not be punished for our refusal to dismantle the Green Book and give up sector-wide collective bargaining
  • The 1% is only being offered to those on scale points 4-10 because the employers know that the National Minimum Wage is likely to overtake the bottom NJC scale point this year – a fact that should cause them shame

Cuts to pay and conditions have NOT saved jobs

  • Employers’ promises to save jobs by keeping pay low and cutting conditions have proved hollow. Around one third of posts have still gone in many councils, saving large amounts of money on councils’ pay bills, while pay and conditions are under constant attack
  • Our members are covering those vacant posts through goodwill, dedication and unpaid overtime, but are receiving no recognition for doing so

Cuts are real but…


Councils are under real financial pressure because of Coalition cuts, but are still spending huge amounts of money on external consultants and privatisation initiatives, as well as agency staff. Reserves have been growing in many councils (Kensington and Chelsea Council currently has £170million stored in its reserves).

  • Our  members are on the breadline and huge savings have been made through job losses
  • In some councils, a third of jobs have been lost since 2010. There’s been a huge saving in pay, pensions and other employer ‘on costs’ across local government as a result
  • The Conservative-led LGA is taking advantage of the cuts to attack pay and conditions, in the same way as the Coalition government has used the banking crisis to attack public services and the welfare state

Many councils are unhappy about the employers offer….

  • Councils can afford a decent pay rise for a much-reduced workforce and many are unhappy with the LGE’s approach…
  • Several Regional employer groups have already said that they are happy to pay 1% without strings, some councils have budgeted for a pay increase above 1%, 24 councils are paying the Living Wage and the same number are considering it, councils which have opted out of the NJC have so far all offered 1% or above this year
  • The employers’ mandate for the offer seems to come from a minority of ‘hard nosed’ councils who are not representative
  • Councils want certainty over pay for the next few years when Coalition cuts will bite – not the uncertainty created by the LGE’s annual tinkering. Oxford City will pay 1.5% for the next five years, ‘defrost’ increments and pay a Living Wage underpin in order to have that certainty (but has unfortunately withdrawn from the NJC)

What Happens Next?

  • Unite’s Local Government Committee met on 29 February to consider the employers’ offer and rejected it. They too are seeking further negotiations alongside UNISON. GMB will meet on Monday, 5 March
  • The NJC Trade Union Side will meet on Friday, 15 March to consider its joint response. UNISON will be arguing for all three unions to reject the offer, get the employers back into negotiations and consult members over industrial action

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