Local government workers are the lowest paid workers across all public services, with two thirds of employees earning less than £21,000.
So it is appalling that in October the national minimum wage will overtake the pay of many local government employees.
This follows below-inflation pay increases since November 2009. In real terms, this is five years of government-imposed pay cuts on public sector workers – cuts imposed by millionaire ministers. As local council employees are so badly paid – with half a million below the low pay threshold – many of them will be claimants of benefits that have also been brutally cut by the ConDem government.
If local government pay had increased in line with inflation, workers’ pay would be on average £2,000 higher – that’s a loss of £1 for every hour worked.
Unite are fighting for a pay increase of £1 per hour for local council workers, where 400,000 of the mainly female workforce earn less than £15,000.
This pay rise would do more than benefit employees, as 52p in every £1 is spent in the local economy.
Unite has 90,000 members in local government, and have joined up with Unison and the GMB to take strike action on Tuesday 14 of October, a few days before the TUC organised national demonstration on Saturday 18 of October.
New minimum wage is ‘a disgrace’, as council workers struggle to pay bills, says Unite
A government that allows vital local government staff to struggle to pay their bills on the new national minimum wage (NMW) of £6.50 an hour was fiercely criticised by Unite, the country’s largest union, today (Wednesday 1 October).
Unite, which represents 80,000 members in local authorities, said that it was disgraceful that the coalition had allowed wage rates for council workers to drop to the NMW level.
Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “Thousands of local government workers from today are now on the minimum wage £6.50 an hour. They will be struggling to pay their household bills.
“It is a disgrace and a searing indictment that the government has allowed the wages of vital public servants who underpin council services 365 days a year to fall to such levels.
“Our members are facing a winter of poverty, choosing between heating and eating. Care workers, cleaners, catering and school support staff providing vital services to children, the elderly and vulnerable will be desperately trying to make ends meet.
“The majority of the workforce – 77 per cent – is made up of women, many working part-time, who are bearing the brunt of the austerity measures, while George Osborne’s chums amongst the wealthy elite live it up because of generous tax breaks.
“They also face a £500 thumping delivered by Osborne to the working poor where you have to work even harder, getting even poorer under this shabby government.
“The UK is the seventh richest country in the world – we can do much better as a nation to help the low paid.”
Unite, along with the other local government unions, wants a £1-an-hour increase for local government workers.
Unite’s members in local government will be taking in industrial action on Tuesday 14 October in support of better pay.