The three local government unions, representing 1.4 million council and school employees, have submitted a pay claim for staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to receive a pay boost of at least £2,000 each.
UNISON, GMB and Unite say only a significant rise will help protect services and enable staff to weather the growing cost of living pressures following a decade of local authority cuts and pay restraint.
The 2022 claim, which would apply from the start of April, would see council employees receive either a £2,000 rise at all pay grades or the current rate of RPI (presently 11.1%), whichever is higher for each individual.
This would lift all council and school employees back above the real living wage of £9.90 per hour (outside London).
The three unions say staff working in local government have seen an average of 27.5% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010, the unions say.
The squeeze on household budgets has a pronounced effect on council workers, many of whom are in low-paid roles and are currently paid little more than the minimum wage, say unions.
As well as dealing with increased workloads because of austerity cuts, staff have been further stretched by the challenges of the pandemic and spiralling day-to-day costs, the three say.
Council employees – including refuse collectors, library staff, teaching assistants and care workers – deserve better pay and working conditions while providing vital community services, according to the pay claim.
UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “If the pandemic showed anything, it was that council workers provide invaluable services to keep communities safe. Time and again they went above and beyond to look after people in their area.
“But they can’t run services on thin air. Many staff are struggling to make ends meet and unless they’re paid properly, many will decide to quit for better paid work elsewhere.
“Employers and the government need to invest properly in the local government and school workforce to ensure the important services on which everyone relies are fit for the future.”