Local council 0.5% pay offer only on the table until 1 June

The 0.5% pay offer for council staff will be withdrawn by 1 June in favour of a pay freeze if unions cannot agree to a negotiated settlement, the Local Government Association has warned.

In a letter to unions Unite, GMB and Unison leaders published today, employers’ secretary Sarah Messenger said the offer reflected the financial position facing councils and the need to be “sensitive to the public perception of the position of public sector workers”.

Unions are “bitterly disappointed” at the 2009-10 pay increase offer to staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yet they have little choice to act quickly to negotiate a deal or they risk receiving a 0% pay rise offer if nothing is agreed by June.

In the letter, Messenger said: “In the light of the increasingly uncertain economic climate, and in an effort to secure a relatively quick settlement, the employers have decided that this offer should be time-limited. Accordingly, if a negotiated settlement has not been reached by 1 June 2009, the offer will be withdrawn and there would be no increase this year.”

Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield said the offer was “totally unacceptable”.

“Who could honestly expect us to consider this acceptable? It is just not realistic and we know that the employers have already put aside money for an increase of between 1.5% and 2.5%,” she said.

Wakefield added that last year’s council pay deal of 2.75% was only agreed last month, after it went to conciliation service Acas.

The union’s angry reaction to this year’s pay announcement was further fuelled by the revelation just days ago that the number of council chief executives that earn more than £100,000 rose by 27% last year – with at least 16 people earning more than prime minister Gordon Brown. The top earner was found to be Wakefield council’s former chief executive John Foster, whose £205,000 salary was part of a £545,000 remuneration package. He left his post in March 2008.

Meanwhile, last month, the government confirmed that three-year public sector pay deals for police, NHS and teachers would be honoured in full.

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