Even more local government workers will fall into the trap of poverty, as the local government employers confirmed on 23 February that they would impose a pay freeze for the third year running.
More than 1.6 million workers will be hit, even those on the lowest wages who will not get the £250 minimum increase promised to them in Chancellor George Osborne’s June 2010 budget – for the second year in a row. A survey by UNISON earlier this week, revealed that pay in the sector has already been slashed by 13% in the last three years alone*, which has contributed to stripping wages down to 1990’s levels. More than a quarter of the workforce now earn less than the Living Wage of £7.20 per hour, and many are forced to rely on benefits and tax credits to keep their heads above water. Any change in their family’s situation can drag them into poverty. At the same time, Chief Executive pay in local government has risen by a massive 59% between 1998 and 2007**.
UNISON head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “Many local government workers are in work, but in poverty. It is a disgrace that their pay will be frozen for the third year running – forcing even more into the poverty trap. Many of them will be women working in vital jobs in our local communities – like caring for the elderly, or for young children, or helping the vulnerable.
“Not even the lowest paid in local government will get the £250 increase the Chancellor promised them – they didn’t get it last year either. Families can no longer cope. This cannot go on – councils do have other choices such as increasing council tax, or using their considerable reserves. The employers must think again, and at the very least come through with the £250 minimum increase for the lowest paid.”
Notes to editors: *Pay has been slashed by 13% between April 2009 and Feb 2012 – taking into account inflation and the pay freeze. **According to Audit Commission figures.