Council staff in pay rise anger
Local government employers have been accused of denying a pay rise for 1.6 million council workers after an expected offer failed to materialise.
Unions representing staff ranging from refuse collectors and school cleaners to architects and social workers across Wales, England and Northern Ireland made a claim for a £1.20 an hour wage rise.
The two sides were due to meet today but unions said they have been told an offer will not be made until the Government announces the new rate for the national minimum wage in May.
Heather Wakefield, national officer of Unison, said: "The employers' attitude to our members providing vital local services and supporting children in schools has reached an all-time low.
"Using the national minimum wage as an explicit benchmark for our members' pay for the first time ever shows just how little the employers and the Government value their amazing contribution to local communities and children in schools. It also shows their disdain for women workers who make up more than three-quarters of the workforce.
"School support staff, library assistants, care workers, clerical assistants and cleaners now find themselves regarded as the lowest skilled and lowest valued in the labour market. It's a shameful culmination of years of neglect of workers who keep our communities clean and safe, care for our elderly and help our children learn.
"This shoddy treatment has to end once and for all. The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is, end low pay in schools and councils and stop the unnecessary cuts to council funding."
Unions said council workers' pay has fallen by 18% in real terms since the coalition took office in 2010.
A spokesman for the national employers side said: "There is a consensus amongst councils across the country in favour of a pay offer being made. However, members of the national employers side are unable to formally respond to the unions' pay claim until government has clarified details of this year's increase to the national minimum wage in April.
"The national employers have agreed to reconvene on May 1 to decide their next steps and the trade unions have been informed of this decision."
Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB said: "I have been told that the local government employer representatives have a 1% remit to offer a pay rise from April 1 but that they are holding this back.
"The reason given is that they first want to see how much the national minimum wage is going up by in October 2014 so that they can deduct this from the 1% pot.
"This is showing complete disdain for employees. Council workers have suffered a three-year pay freeze, 440,000 job losses, cuts to terms and conditions, been vilified by politicians, while out there on the front line helping their communities, including the victims of this terrible flooding.
"Street cleaners, school dinner staff, social workers, gravediggers, classroom assistants and all the other unsung heroes serving their local communities deserve a decent pay rise.
"GMB and the other unions are entering into dispute with the local government employers and we will be holding a national trade union meeting shortly to determine our next steps. A measly 1%, reduced even further to pay the national minimum wage, will infuriate our members."
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "Council workers have suffered years of real pay cuts, while being hit with the escalating cost of living crisis.
"We know that the Treasury has given the green light for 1%, which is derisory, and now the employers are playing politics saying they are going to wait to see what increase there may be in the national minimum wage.
"This is a spurious link and is a disgraceful ploy. We call on the employers to immediately re-enter negotiations with the staff side unions so that those that keep public services running efficiently on a daily basis receive a decent and fair pay increase."