Local authority employers and unions recommend two-year pay deal

In August 2002, negotiations over pay increases for local council employees in the UK produced proposals for a two-year package, including special provision for the lowest paid. The trade unions and the employers’ association are recommending that their members accept the deal.

Following a one-day national strike by local council workers held in July 2002 (UK0208102N), trade union plans for further industrial action have been suspended after a breakthrough in pay negotiations. On 5 August 2002, negotiators from the three unions concerned - UNISON, the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) and the GMB- and the Employers’ Organisation for Local Government agreed to recommend acceptance of a two-year pay deal, brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). The four organisations are currently consulting their members on the package. The outcome is expected to be known in late September.

Under the proposed pay package, all council workers would receive a 3% increase with a new minimum rate of GBP 5.00 an hour with effect from 1 April 2002. This would be followed by a further 1% rise from 1 October 2002, plus another 1% for the lowest two grades. In April 2003, council workers would receive a pay rise of 3.5% and an additional 1% for the lowest paid. The package includes the establishment of an independently chaired commission on local government pay and related issues which will report within a year. Issues to be addressed will include union concerns on how to tackle low pay and ensure equal pay for men and women workers in local government.

In a joint statement, the three unions said: 'We believe that the proposals represent a fair deal for local government employees and a strong platform to end low pay and unequal pay. We will be taking these proposals to our respective memberships and recommending acceptance. If they are accepted, it will bring an end to this dispute ... The commission represents a real opportunity to address the long term decline in local government pay and will begin to redress the neglect of the local government workforce.'

The GMB is conducting a full postal ballot of members covered by the agreement, closing on 20 September. Within UNISON, branches are consulting members on the proposals. The process includes workplace meetings and ballots of members.

Councillor Brian Baldwin, chair of the employers’ side of the National Joint Council (NJC) - the negotiating body covering local authority employees - said: 'I am pleased that both sides have agreed to recommend ACAS’s proposals and I am confident that this is the best solution in the interests of local government, the public and our staff. There's no doubt, however, that these proposals represent a challenge to councils to ensure that services are maintained. Councils have to find a balance between pay, the need to protect jobs and the demands on council taxpayers. The proposals are right at the limit of affordability for many councils up and down the country.'

The employers’ organisation has asked local authorities to answer 'yes' or 'no' to the question: 'Do you consider that in the circumstances the employers’ side of the NJC should accept the pay proposals on behalf of local authorities, subject to the unions also accepting them?' Local authorities have been given until 16 September to respond.

In a separate dispute, council workers in London are threatening to take industrial action in pursuit of a significant increase in the London weighting allowance which is intended to help workers meet the higher cost of living in the capital. Unions and London local authority employers were due to meet to discuss this issue on 12 September 2002.

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