The Government boasts regularly that an economic recovery is in full swing. Corporate profits are up along with bosses’ pay and share packages outpacing inflation several times over. But workers generally and especially in local government are not seeing the fruits of this supposed recovery. The majority of Camden Council workers have seen the real value of their pay fall by as much as 20% since 2009.
After months of delay the local government (NJC) employers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland finally tabled an offer of just 1% this spring, again below the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, since 2009 the typical electricity bill has soared by 28%, the cost of gas by 38% and rail fares have shot up by 21% on average.
Midst the past four years of huge cuts in local government funding there has been a growing recognition that endless pay restraint has done nothing to preserve jobs and services. Between the summer of 2010 and 2014 Camden Council axed some 950 jobs – a tiny fraction of the 360,000 posts shed by councils nationally. Current forecasts suggest another 750 Camden jobs could go over the next four years.
Little wonder, then, that hundreds of thousands of members of UNISON and other council unions voted for and supported strike action on 10 July alongside teachers, civil servants and firefighters. Three days after our strike Camden announced a significant uplift for workers on the very lowest rates of pay from January 2015 and the promise of more by 2017-18. Obviously, this is good news, especially for those due to benefit, but the first step will cost less than £60,000 and it does nothing to address the drastic erosion of living standards for the vast majority of us.
Despite Labour now gaining control of the Local Government Association, the employers’ side has thus far refused to reopen negotiations. While the Tory-led coalition has undeniably slashed local authority funding, Council reserves have actually grown to some £19bn (with Camden alone recording an underspend of £8 million in 2013-14 that went into reserves).
As UNISON warned, one day of action was unlikely to be enough to win significant concessions from the employers. Now with no decent offer from the employers, UNISON and the other local government unions have called a further day of strike action for 14 October that could involve workers in the NHS and the Food Standards Agency as well as other trade unionists who struck on 10 July.
What can you do to help the fight to win a real pay rise this year?
– If you’re already a UNISON member encourage work colleagues to join
– Not in UNISON? No time like the present – simply complete the form found here and return it in the internal post to the branch office address given on it
– Come to the ‘Enough is Enough!’ meeting on Thursday 18 September, 12.30-2.00pm at 5 Pancras Square (11th Floor) and STRIKE FOR ‘FAIR PAY’ ON TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER.