Local Government workers empty the bins, clean the schools, educate and care for children, look after the elderly and vulnerable, conduct marriages and civil partnerships, care for parks and check the safety of the food on your table.
We do it all despite savage cuts to vital services. Almost half a million of our jobs have gone. Those of us left are doing far more for far less. We have worked hard to get employers to negotiate a deal, but the employers won’t even talk to us about a better offer or join us for independent arbitration. Most Unison members are low-paid, part-time women workers, struggling to pay their household bills. Losing pay for strike action is not something they do lightly. Our members are not asking for the 14 per cent pay increase company bosses and bankers are getting or the 11 per cent MPs will see. They are just asking for a rise of at least £1 an hour. That would mean almost half a million council and school support workers, currently earning below the Living Wage of £7.65 an hour, could come off in-work benefits. The current Government offer leaves most workers with pay worth almost 20 per cent less than in 2010. Falling pay also means loss of our pension. Yet, despite a pay freeze, jobs have gone and services continue to be stripped to the bone, privatised or stopped all together. There’s no reason to believe a pay cut will stop this. Low pay is bad for workers and bad for the economy. That’s why politicians from all parties are calling for an end to low pay. Many of our members rely on benefits to pay bills. Right now, the taxpayer is subsidising local Government enabling them to continue to pay poverty wages. Paying all local Government workers a living wage will boost Treasury coffers by around £0.9bn every year – shifting many off in-work benefits, reducing the bill to taxpayers. This strike is about pay – but it is also about the future of the services our members provide. Services used by everyone.
Jeanette Lloyd - Unison branch secretary for Derbyshire