Following UNISON’s rejection of the two ‘options’ in first pay offer, the Local Government Employers (LGE) have returned with a final offer in writing on 25 April (see here).
The revised offer is:
- 1% on all pay points from 1 April 2013
- Deletion of scale point 4 (the bottom pay point) from 1 October 2013
We think given that inflation is 3.5% and has been around this level for the last four years this offer represents a pay cut in real terms – in fact effectively a 13% paycut.
Time To Take A Stand
English councils have increased their reserves by £4.5bn over the last five years to almost £13bn, despite cuts to funding. The money is there to pay for a decent pay increase for all local government workers and therefore we believe that the employer needs to offer a substantial pay increase. Only this can address the scandelous issue of low pay (of the working poor), the growing cost of living and go some way to redress almost half a decade of wage repression.
Impact on Scale Points
The impact of the offer on each scale point can be seen in the indicative scales here.
There are around 28,000 employees – mostly women working part-time – on scale point 4, who would move onto the revised scale point 5 in October. This would mean a 1% increase for them between April and 30 September and a further 1.4% increase on 1 October. Overall they would move from £6.30 to £6.45 – a 2.4% increase.
In their letter to the Joint Trade Union Side Secretaries, the LGE made a number of other points:
- The NJC is “the body best placed to deal with relevant employment issues arising from the huge amount of change that local government is undergoing…”
- They are disappointed that the unions “have been unable to consider even the most minor elements of reform”
- Because the unions have not been willing to negotiate ‘reform’ of the Green Book, it is “highly probable that the NJC will find itself in a situation whereby future national negotiations are held solely on the issue of pay, unless you significantly alter your stance”
- The employers “ value highly” joint work on the LGPS, the NJC JE scheme, the public health transfer and pay and career development for social workers
- The employers “will shortly be seeking the views of councils and regional employers on the future ability of the national machinery to reform terms and conditions” and will have further discussions with the unions on this
While we welcome the LGE’s continued commitment to the NJC, we would make the following points in response to the Employers’ suggestion that the unions have not been prepared to engage in negotiations over Green Book conditions:
- NJC conditions are the worst in the public sector. Basic annual leave is just above the statutory minimum and worse than every other sector. The same applies to parental rights
- The NJC Committee and the Trade Union Side have both agreed that the unions should not enter into negotiations at NJC level to cut Part 2 conditions – sick pay, annual leave or car allowances
- Half of councils have ended NJC mileage allowances and moved our members onto HMRC rates. For those who do significant mileage as part of their jobs, this means subsidising their employer on top of a three-year pay freeze and other cuts to conditions
- Around 30% of councils have cut unsocial hours payments and/or overtime pay – with a massive effect on low paid women workers in particular
- Over 25% of councils have cut pay at a local level and others have imposed unpaid annual leave
- More and more councils are charging for car parking – adding insult to pay cut misery
- UNISON and the other unions have made proposals to improve parental rights, establish a ‘gender agenda’ for local government and a green transport policy that properly rewards members for use of cars, while including public transport, bikes and motor bikes
- The LGE response has been to say that any improvements would have to be funded by cuts elsewhere and would not be applied to councils who have already cut those conditions!!! Effectively, they would not become part of the Green Book
- The allegation that we have not been prepared to discuss ‘reform’ is untrue, but we have not been provided with the opportunity to discuss positive reform to bring NJC workers in line with other public sector groups. ‘Reform’ for the LGE means ‘cuts’. For UNISON, it means negotiating for fairness and equality across the public sector
The role of the NJC
- Like the employers, UNISON strongly supports sector-wide bargaining in local government through the NJC because it is the most likely way to ensure the same pay for the same jobs across Regions and local labour markets and protect those in low paying areas
- It also ensures that we have recognition with councils within the NJC and can continue constructive dialogue at local level as well as at NJC level
- Having the NJC also means that we can keep a focus on equal pay and equality issues in a consistent way across local government and within councils. The break-up of the NJC would open up the potential for massive pay inequality and would make local government vulnerable to equal pay litigation – just as the last wave costing £2 billion dies down
- However, the NJC has failed to deliver decent pay for our members – even during periods when the employers could have taken steps to help NJC workers catch up. Instead, pay fell below inflation in 8 of the last 16 years – leaving us in the sorry state we are in now
- We want an NJC that provides the focus for positive and constructive bargaining – not just on pay, but on training, career development, equality issues and decent conditions. We have consistently said that we want the NJC to negotiate on these issues, but the employers have made no move to help this happen
- UNISON has led the very positive developments on the updating of the NJC Job Evaluation Scheme, production of role profile for social workers, school staff and public health workers and the LGPS. We want that to continue through the NJC
- We will be issuing new bargaining advice shortly to branches and Regions on sick pay and car allowances as it seems clear that the employers will urge councils to cut them further at local level
What Happens Now With The Pay Offer?
Unison’s NJC Committee will be meeting on the 7 May in the morning to discuss the LGE’s final offer and agree its recommendation for the branch consultation which will start as soon as possible after 7 May. The Joint Trade Union Side will meet in the afternoon and will hopefully agree a joint way forward.
Branches and Regions will be asked to prepare to carry out branch ballots of all members covered by NJC pay and conditions to seek their views on the final offer.