UNISON, the largest union for local government workers, has written to all councillors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, outlining the human stories behind the three year long local government pay freeze. The union is appealing to councillors to use their influence to pressure employers for a thaw.
Retail price inflation has edged up to 3.1%, piling yet more pressure onto local government workers and their families. Even the lowest paid have not received a penny to help them cope with the rising cost of living. Most employers have refused to honour George Osborne’s pledge to pay a £250 increase to all public sector workers earning less than £21,000.
The letter features testimonies from local government workers, outlining the real pain many families are facing as they struggle to afford even basic essentials. Many others are coping with the stresses and strains of working harder than ever to keep services running amid heavy job cuts – more than 250,000 local government workers have lost their jobs since the coalition came to power.
The union is currently in talks with the local government employers over pay for the 2013/14 round, and is calling for the employers to give staff a decent pay rise.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government, said:
“We know how tough finances are for councils - they have been singled out by the Tory-led coalition for its harshest cuts. But councillors need to know how tough things are for the people working harder than ever to keep local government services running.
“Wages have been driven down by rising prices and it is not only those on the lowest pay who are struggling. Middle earners are also facing sleepless nights over how to keep food on the table.
“Giving workers a decent rise would also help to stimulate local economies. They need spending now more than ever before as the threat of the triple dip recession looms large.”
Testimonies from local government workers:
“I am a single 50 year old woman [with dependents]. I have no recourse to any benefits – have been made redundant twice in the last 2 years (each time gaining employment) – and my pay has stayed the same for the past 4 years. My 80+ year old parents sub my mortgage payments.”
“The price of essential goods, food, fuel, insurance etc. increase week by week but my pay has remained the same for three years – what more do I need to say?”
“I work incredibly hard. Many key posts are either unfilled or have been cut which means I do more and more work for less and less money. I feel undervalued.”
“I have such a low income I am considering giving up my job to get benefits. How sad, as I love my job!”
Local government pay - the facts
Click here to read UNISON's letter to councillors