Trade union Unison shelves strike action over low pay as ballot of local government workers proves inconclusive

Local government union Unison has abandoned plans for strike action over low pay after an inconclusive ballot among its members.

However, the union warned that employers and the government were in the “last chance saloon” over pay following this year’s below-inflation annual pay award of 2.45%.

The ballot closed last week and saw 144,719 valid ballot papers returned, with 51.6% voting for action and 48.4% voting against. The turnout was 24.4%.

The union said in a statement: “In all the circumstances, including the narrowness of the majority and the size of the poll, this result does not constitute the basis for viable industrial action to break the government’s pay policy.”

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “This is effectively our members’ fourth consecutive annual pay cut and they have decisively put government and local authority employers into the ‘last chance saloon’.

“Since 2003 local council workers across the UK have seen their pay packets falling further behind the rise in living costs, and thousands of low-paid staff suffer chronic financial hardship.”

The union said it would be shortly submitting its claim for the 2008 pay round and warned employers to end their ‘bargain-basement’ treatment of workers.

Councillor Brian Baldwin, chair of the employers’ negotiating team, said the decision by Unison was common sense.

“There are many hundreds of thousands of Unison members who did not return ballot papers and who had no wish to conduct industrial action. The decision by the Unison strike committee was both right and reasonable,” he said.

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