THOUSANDS of South Tyneside Council staff are to be consulted over strike action after a trade union rejected a “meagre” pay offer.
Two bids have been put on the table by Local Government Employers, the body which represents councils in negotiations between trade unions and government over pay and conditions.
Both offers would end a three year pay freeze for local authority workers.
The first is a one per cent increase for all workers if terms in the ‘Green Book’ - the national agreement on pay and conditions for local government workers - are changed.
Suggested alterations to the terms include cutting mileage rates and removing the arbitration clause that allows either unions or employers to seek arbitration in a sector-wide dispute.
A second option is a one per cent pay increase for staff in the six lowest pay grades and 0.6 per cent for higher earning staff, without any changes in terms.
Unison nationally has urged its 600,000 local government members to reject both pay offers, labelling them “derisory”.
It has called on the employers to return to negotiations and improve their offer following a complete pay freeze for council staff since April 2010.
Unless there’s a U-turn soon a strike ballot is likely within weeks.
That ballot would involve 3,000 staff employed by South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Homes and BT South Tyneside.
Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, expressed his “real disappointment” at the pay offer.
He said council pay had declined by 15 per cent in real terms in the last three years and many councils have also cut unsocial hours and overtime payments, hours of work, car allowances and redundancy pay.
More than 1,000 posts have been shed at South Tyneside Council amid saving efficiencies of £75m.
Mr Butler said: “We are really disappointed with the employers for coming up with this 0.6 per cent derisory pay offer.
“We hope councils will put pressure on the employers to come back with an improved offer.
“Our members have done their best to fill the gaps left by drastic government cuts, but they can be stretched no further.
“Once again they are being denied even the meagre reward for their efforts that was promised to all public sector workers by the chancellor.
“After three years of no pay increase at all, enough really is enough. We hope the employers see sense and make an improved offer.”
Unison last took strike action in November 2011 as part of a pension dispute.
That action led to an improved local authority pension which comes into affect in April next year.