Local government workers tell bosses: ‘We’ve never been so hard up’

Local government workers “have never been so hard up” and it’s hitting the quality of services, council staff told bosses this morning at meeting of local government employers.

Council and school staff were speaking at a meeting of the East of England Local Government Association to make the case for a pay boost of £2,000 or RPI inflation, whichever is higher.

Union UNISON says a significant rise is needed to help protect services and enable staff to cope with the rising cost of living after a decade of local authority cuts and pay restraint.

The rise would lift all council and school employees back above the real living wage of £9.90 an hour. Currently, the lowest pay rates are just £9.50, the minimum wage and employees have seen an average 27.5% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010.

Staff have already been lumped with increased workloads because of a decade of austerity and are now being stretched further by the pandemic and spiralling day-to-day costs, says the union.

UNISON Eastern head of local government Sam Leigh said: “Every day council and school staff play vital roles across our communities. Their pay is a national disgrace.

“But these services don’t run on good will. Employers and the government must invest in the local government and school workforce. Everyone across the east of England needs these important services to be fit for the future.”

Jackie, a local government worker in Hertfordshire, said: “I’ve been impacted by the cost of living crisis – I don’t eat out or go to the local council-run theatre as often as I used too. I worry about my energy bill this winter and the cost of getting into the office. But there are many who cannot speak to you today who have much worse issues than me.

“The mood in local government — and the health and emergency services — is changing. Staff are leaving and services are struggling. If pay talks fail we’ll be left with no choice but to ballot for strikes.

“We need and deserve a decent pay rise and we need to get it sorted out as soon as possible so we can all get back to our day jobs.”

A council worker in Suffolk said: “I am sorry to say that I have never been so hard up in my working life as I am now.

“I have been looking and I continue to look closely at the benefits system as my salary is barely covering my very simple living costs. I don’t know what else I can cut as I am not an extravagant person and live a very simple life.”

Liz, a local government worker in Cambridgeshire, said: “Things have got too bad for Council workers now.

“In many cases our poverty pay is being topped up by the government. Council workers are turning to tax credits and universal credit to help them survive.

“We know that if our claim was agreed 51% of the cost of the cost of it would be recouped by the government as benefits claims would go down.”

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