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Thousands join council pay pickets

Christmas protests call for Tories to drop cap which has led to a 21% wage decline

THOUSANDS of local government workers staged protests across Britain yesterday demanding that top Tories “scrap the cap” on pay rises.

Members of Britain’s three biggest unions — Unite, Unison and the GMB — joined forces to protest against the austerity measure, which has meant a real-terms wage decline for public-sector workers since 2010.

A “government pay pinch Grinch” menaced the Treasury in London  as Unite local government members demonstrated and a giant protest Christmas card was handed in urging Chancellor Philip Hammond to “show some Christmas spirit and fund a proper pay rise.”

GMB “Maybots” were in action at London’s Euston station and in Birmingham, where they were backed by local MPs and councillors.

Workers involved in the protests included social workers, school crossing patrol staff, librarians, school receptionists, refuse collectors, teaching assistants and other council and school employees.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, has proposed a 2 per cent pay increase spread over two years.

But inflation is hovering around 4 per cent and unions fear that even the 2 per cent increase will be funded through more cuts to council services and more redundancies.

Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “Over the last seven years local government workers have seen their pay plummet in real terms by as much as 21 per cent thanks to the government’s pay pinch Grinch.

“It’s time Philip Hammond and the government showed some Christmas spirit by committing extra funds to austerity-ravaged councils to protect services and give local government workers the pay rise they need.

“A failure to do so will lead to the crisis in local government deepening, services suffering and the pay misery for council workers continuing.

“The government needs to spread the Christmas cheer and ensure that all public-sector workers get the properly funded pay rise they deserve after years of pay cuts and pay freezes.”

Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “A pay rise for council and school support staff can’t come soon enough.

“But as the lowest-paid staff in the public sector, they desperately need the government to stop its swingeing cuts to council budgets, deal with inadequate school funding and fully fund this pay increase.

“Councils are facing real problems recruiting and retaining staff due to low pay. The government needs to recognise the importance of the jobs council and school workers do and pay up now.”

GMB senior organiser for public services Stuart Richards said: “Public-sector workers provide vital services for our communities and we should recognise the value they bring.

“After seven years of real-terms pay cuts, we can’t let them get mugged for another year.

“It’s time to end the pay pinch.”


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