Unions representing 1.5 million local government workers have submitted a 2.5% or £500 pay claim for 2010.
Unison, the GMB and Unite said the claim was “modest” and took into account the tough economic climate and the predicted inflation rate for next year.
The claim covers workers such as care assistants, cleaners, teaching assistants, librarians, social workers and refuse collectors, who are at the bottom of the public sector pay league.
But the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that councils needed to exercise pay restraint, setting them on course for another dispute with unions over pay levels. A deal for 2009 of 1% was only agreed in September after months of wrangling.
Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, said: “We believe this claim is both realistic and affordable. Local government workers are playing a vital role in helping communities through the recession, offering practical support alongside debt and housing advice. I would urge the employers to settle this claim quickly and allow council workers to focus on the job in hand, delivering quality public services.”
Steve Bullock, chair of the LGA HR Panel, said: “Now is not the time to be even thinking about an inflation-busting pay claim. Across the public sector, people are accepting the need for pay restraint.
“Councils are in a very difficult financial position this year. They have been coping with a perfect storm of falling incomes and increasing demand for services over the past year, and face the prospect of further spending cuts in the months to come.”
The LGA is consulting with councils across the UK before responding to the unions.
PPMA chief Gill Hibberd was warned that a prospective public sector pay freeze in 2011 if the Conservatives win the next general election would put pressure on next year’s pay round.