GMB, the union for public sector workers, today launched a campaign to win a living wage of £7.45ph (£8.55ph in London) for 280,000 low paid workers in councils across England and Wales. In this GMB has secured the support of Ed Miliband Labour leader and members of the Labour front bench for higher pay for low paid council staff.
Council pay rates start at £6.30ph, just 11p above the national minimum wage. As a result hundreds of thousands of council workers are forced to claim tax credits, free school meals, housing benefit and council tax benefit to make ends meet.
Trade Union Side of the NJC has already a claim for a pay increase for our members in 2013/14 as follows: “A substantial flat rate increase on all scale points as a step towards the longer term objective of restoring pay levels and achieving the living wage as the bottom NJC spinal column point”.
In front line occupations such as care workers, school dinner ladies, meals on wheels staff, refuse workers, cleaners and caretakers there are 280,000 local authority staff paid below a living wage of £7.45ph (£8.55ph in London). Typical council jobs which pay £6.30/£6.38ph are home helps, school dinner staff, teaching assistants, cleaners, grave diggers, admin assistants, sure-start workers, refuse staff, caretakers, meals on wheels staff, care workers and school crossing patrols.
GMB will be raising petitions among council workers, meeting with chief executives and asking councillors to support resolutions to implement a living wage. 27 councils in England and Wales have already introduced or are committed to a living wage. These are Ashfield, Blackpool, Birmingham, Brent, Brighton & Hove, Camden, Cardiff, Carlisle, Croydon, Dartford, Derby City, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hounslow, Hyndburn, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newcastle, Norwich, Oxford City, Preston, Sheffield, Southwark, Swansea and York. Most councils in Scotland have already introduced or are committed to a living wage.
Brian Strutton said “After years of pay freezes local government is now the lowest paid of any major sector of the economy and for 280,000 front line public servants to be paid less than a living wage is a disgrace.
It is also nonsensical that their pay has to be topped up through the benefit system when they could have the dignity of being paid fairly without having to rely on benefit at very little net additional cost to the public purse. Most, but not all, low paid council staff are women carers, cleaners and school dinner ladies whose roles have been undervalued for decades. A number of Councils are already committed to the Living Wage. It is now high time that every Council did the decent thing and paid the Living Wage and I hope our GMB campaign will encourage them to do it.”
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said: "In the last election we gave a commitment to ask Whitehall departments to follow the lead of those already paying the living wage, and today Labour councils across the country are leading the way in committing to pay a living wage to their staff and subcontracted workers.
The Living Wage goes to the heart of our vision for One Nation. It’s about building an economy where everyone has a stake, not where millions of people feel they never have a chance for a decent life however hard they work. I hope more local authorities and other employers will look at how the Living Wage can help them achieve their aim to build stronger communities and better public services."
Rachael Reeves, MP for Leeds West and Shadow Secretary to the Treasury, said "A living wage can provide dignity at work while reducing families’ reliance on public spending or private debt. Employers have found that, combined with a commitment to engage and develop their staff, it can make good business sense too.
And for local authorities it can also help to regenerate local neighbourhoods and stimulate local economies. I am proud that, despite tough budgetary conditions, Labour councils, working with trade unions, are finding a way of making this commitment to the staff who play such a vital role in keeping local services running, and hope we will see more councils moving in this direction.”