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Local government workers strike against breadline wages while employers sit on millions

Posted on Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Local government workers across the UK will walk out at midnight tonight in protest against the breadline wages offered to them by employers sitting on millions in savings delivered by this same workforce.

Workers from town halls, school canteens and refuse depots across the country - members of the UK’s largest union, Unite – will begin a two day strike over a below inflation pay offer.

The employers have offered a 2.5 per cent pay offer, which with inflation running at 4.3 per cent, Unite says means a real terms pay cut.

Unions are pressing for a 6 per cent pay deal or an increase of 50p per hour, whichever is greater, arguing that local government can pay for this out of the massive efficiency savings town halls have made so far this year. In recent months, local authorities have saved £77.5 million a month – yet many of their employees earn less than £6.80 per hour.

Peter Allenson, National Organiser for the Service Sector said: “Our members are living on the breadline yet they have been offered a pay cut when rising living costs are causing working people to struggle. 

“The blame for this dispute and the disruption to essential services sits squarely on the shoulders of the local government employers. The public will ask why a pay cut is forced on some of the country’s lowest paid workers while their employers hoard multi-millions in savings.

“Neither though can central government sit on the sidelines doing nothing. With sixty-one per cent of local authority income coming from central government, they have clear responsibility to ensure these workers earn a living wage.

“Local government employers must now return to the negotiating table with a realistic pay offer, while central government must ensure the flexibility is there to fund a renewed, above inflation pay offer.”

Recent research published by the Joseph Rowntree Trust revealed that a single person in Britain needs to earn at least £13,400 a year for a basic but acceptable standard of living. However, at least 29 per cent (389,814 people) working in local government do not even earn this basic amount. 81 per cent of those earning less than this basic amount are women.

Unite members voted for sustained industrial action.  The ballot close on Friday 27th of June.

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