Monday, April 06, 2009

Half measures for local government workers

Certain regular readers (Sid and Doris Local-Government-Employers) will understand if they are not swamped with gratitude for the offer of the princely sum of 0.5% as a pay increase from 1 April.

This is how they justify it;

"Our primary consideration in making an offer has once again been affordability. The recession continues to have a major impact on council finances: demands on council services are increasing; income from items such as fees and charges is decreasing; and the third year of the current three-year CSR settlement is no longer guaranteed. While the latter relates to 2010/11, it is a major factor in assessing what is affordable for 2009/10. In addition councils have had to absorb the cost of the 0.30% arbitration award at a time when budgets for the coming year have already been set.

The offer also reflects the wider context of redundancies, pay freezes and even pay cuts for workers across the economy and it is important that local authorities are sensitive to public perception of the position of public sector workers. Our offer is therefore limited not only by what we can afford but what we can justify to council tax payers.

With all that in mind, the employers are prepared to make an offer of 0.50% on all points in the national pay spine. In the light of the increasingly uncertain economic climate, and in an effort to secure a relatively quick settlement, the employers have decided that this offer should be time-limited. Accordingly, if a negotiated settlement has not been reached by 1 June 2009, the offer will be withdrawn and there would be no increase this year. The employers would not implement the offer unilaterally in the absence of an agreement."

So - a measley offer and a deadline for acceptance. With a mastery of understatement UNISON's official response describes the offer as "dismaying" - the Executive of the Trade Union Side meet tomorrow to consider a response.

The Government's preferred measure of inflation - the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose to 3.2% in February and though that may be a blip in a downward trend it puts the offer of 0.5% into perspective. I understand that local Councils have generally budgeted for between 1.5% and 2.5% for a pay award for 2009/10 so there is no excuse for an offer so low to a low paid workforce whose pay has been falling behind prices for several years.

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