Welsh council workers 22 per cent poorer over last decade

Eight years of pay freezes and pay caps have left Welsh local government staff 22 per cent poorer in real terms and council workers from three of Britain’s biggest unions will today (Thursday) hold a lobby for a fair pay rise outside the Welsh Local Government Association.

Road maintenance staff; social workers; school support staff; carers; refuse workers and many more belonging to GMB, UNISON and Unite will demonstrate outside a meeting of council leaders from 9.30am, at Local Government House, Drake Walk, Cardiff, CF10 4 LG.

The trade unions want each Welsh authority to pass a motion endorsing their call for the lowest paid council staff to be paid at least £10 per hour from April 2020, with all other staff receiving a 10 per cent pay rise.

The trade unions say the wages of the majority of local authority workers in Wales have declined in value by 22 per cent when earnings are compared to increases in the cost of living over the last decade. For those on the most common salary point, the shortfall is £5,626.

GMB, UNISON and Unite argue the pay rise must be funded by new money from the Westminster government because current local government budgets are already under severe strain.

Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru Wales head of local government and spokesperson for the joint trade unions said,

“Wales’ thousands of council workers have endured a decade of pay restraint. It’s left them and their families 22 per cent worse off but their bills still have to be paid and electricity, child care and transport costs have sky-rocketed.

“At the same time, these same staff are working harder than ever before. Deep Westminster spending cuts mean they are forced to keep local community services running on drastically reduced budgets.

“78 per cent of councils report recruitment and retention problems and this is a direct result of pay being so tightly squeezed.

“Council workers need a decent pay rise which goes some way to making good the real terms losses over the last ten years and we need to lift people out of in-work poverty with a £10 an hour minimum wage.”


Notes for editors

  • Local government workers belonging to GMB, UNISON and Unite will lobby a meeting of the Welsh Local Government Association between 9.30am – 10.45am. They will gather outside Local Government House, Drake Walk, Cardiff CF10 4 LG
  • Journalists wishing to attend should advise Alastair Gittins (contact details below)
  • From 2010, council workers faced eight years of government-imposed pay restraint, with their wages either frozen or held to a one per cent pay increase.
  • Local authority employees are now coming to the end of a two-year pay deal, which included a 2% increase each year, with more for the lowest paid. The unions would like to see the 2020/21 pay deal tackle the fall in living standards school and council workers have faced in the last decade.
  • The claim for the year from next April (2020), would see the lowest paid staff earning at least £10 per hour, and all other council employees receiving a ten per cent pay rise. UNISON, GMB and Unite’s joint claim also includes a one-day increase to employees’ annual leave entitlement and a two-hour reduction in the standard working week. It also calls for a review of the workplace causes of stress and mental health issues.
  • The joint trades union initiative asks councils to pass the following model motion: –
This council notes
– Government has endured central government funding cuts of nearly 50% since 2010.
– Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 they have received from central government.
– The 2019 LGA survey of council finances found that 1 in 3 councils fear they will run out of funding to provide even their statutory, legal duties by 2022/23. This number rises to almost two thirds of councils by 2024/2025 or later.
– The LGA estimates councils will face a funding gap of £8 billion by 2025.
– Faced with these cuts from central government, the local government workforce has endured years of pay restraint with the majority of pay points losing 22 per cent of their value since 2009/10.
– At the same time as seeing their pay go down in real terms, workers experience ever increasing workloads and persistent job insecurity. Across the UK, an estimated 876,000 jobs have been lost in local government since June 2010 – a reduction of 30 per cent. Local government has arguably been hit by more severe job losses than any other part of the public sector.
– There has been a disproportionate impact on women, with women making up more than three quarters of the local government workforce.
This council believes
– Our workers are public service super heroes. They keep our communities clean, look after those in need and keep our towns and cities running.
– Without the professionalism and dedication of our staff, the council services our residents rely on would not be deliverable.
– Government funding has been cut to the extent that a proper pay rise could result in a reduction in local government services.
– The government needs to take responsibility and fully fund increases in pay; it should not put the burden on local authorities whose funding been cut to the bone.
This council resolves to
– Support the pay claim submitted by GMB UNISON and Unite on behalf of council and school workers for a £10 per hour minimum wage and a 10 per cent uplift across all other pay points in 2020/21.
– Call on the Local Government Association to make urgent representations to central government to fund the NJC pay claim
– Write to the Chancellor and Secretary of State to call for a pay increase for local government workers to be funded with new money from central government.
– Meet with local NJC union representatives to convey support for the pay claim.
– Encourage all local government workers to join a union

Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer 07816 53 83 97