Unison is consulting members this week on a 3 per cent pay rise offer made by local authority employers in what is the biggest single pay negotiation in the country.
The offer, made at a meeting on 29 February, will cover 1.3 million staff and add £390m to the pay bill of local authorities.
Many councils will struggle to afford the increase with job losses likely as a result, local government body The Employers' Organisation said.
Despite asking for 5 per cent and an extra five days leave, Unison accepts the deal is the best it can hope for through negotiation.
General secretary designate Dave Prentis, told Personnel Today he believes the "overwhelming majority" of members will accept the offer. He added that it was higher than expected.
"This was the second meeting. Originally it was suggested that they could not afford anything like 3 per cent, given the restrictions on public funding," he said.
Rob Pinkham, deputy director of The Employers' Organisation, said it will be a difficult settlement for many councils to finance.
"Most of the authorities we spoke to said they could afford no more than 2.5 per cent, but in light of what has happened elsewhere - such as teachers getting 3.3 per cent - we decided a settlement below 3 per cent was unrealistic."
Rita Sammons, president of Socpo and adviser to the national joint council, said, "With Best Value so close to us, staff morale is more important than ever, so we felt this was the right offer.
"Some councils will find it difficult but it has been a question of trying to balance a lot of issues and trying to settle it quickly."
By Dominique Hammond