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A Fresh start for Local Government Pay or a cheap Con Trick?

At the GMB Conference in June I announced that council leaders had told us that they were considering radical proposals to worsen the national terms and conditions in local government for all staff – known as the Green Book.  There was a considerable outcry and subsequently we were informed that they would reconsider their position.

More recently, with GMB and other unions stating publicly that we would not tolerate a further pay freeze, the councils’ national negotiators said they were hoping to put together an offer for the next pay round in 2013 based on both pay and conditions.  This now seems to have moved on, with the Chair of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, writing in a newspaper a few days ago  “While the financial outlook for local government is bleak, we are keen to discuss with the unions a package of reform of pay and conditions that may enable us to avoid a fourth year of pay freeze in 2013.”

This is very interesting.  According to the LGA leader, they now have a ‘package’ ready to discuss with GMB and the other unions.  This package involves ‘reform of pay and conditions’.  It presumably involves a pay increase because it could ‘avoid a fourth year of pay freeze’ – I say  ‘presumably ‘ on the assumption that they wouldn’t expect us to agree pay cuts!  So it now seems clear that the LGA has a prepared offer ready, even in advance of the Trade Unions submitting a claim.  How impressive is that?

Seriously, while Sir Merrick Cockell may have inadvertantly let the cat out of the bag by this announcement, it tells us a number of things.  Firstly, it does appear that the disastrous run of three years of total inactivity on the pay front is coming to an end;

secondly, the employers’ national negotiators have a package to discuss and in my experience that usually means a few grains of sugar on a very bitter pill; thirdly, while serious and meaningful negotiations would be welcome it is right to approach this with extreme caution until we see the colour of their money.  Indeed, many councils and

national employer representatives have often spoken about a wholesale decimation of national terms and conditions, just as they did in the summer, and if this is a new attempt to tear up the Green Book for a few coppers on the pay rate then, like Sir Merrick Cockell, I can also reveal a secret.  It’s not on.

The pension negotiations proved that local authority unions and employers can work together successfully in the most difficult of circumstances.  I hope we can carry that good work forward in the next round of pay negotiations to provide a fair deal for staff who have had nothing for three years.

 

Brian Strutton

National Secretary – Public Services Section

Posted: 24th September 2012

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