Major Unions Seek Pay Increase

(Reuters) – THREE OF THE COUNTRY’S BIGGEST UNIONS have asked for a 2.5% pay increase next year for 1.5 million lower paid local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the unions said on Monday.

Next year’s wage negotiations in the large public sector could turn out to be among the most difficult in decades, given low inflation, soaring unemployment and fears about future cuts to public spending to tame the budget deficit.

The Conservatives, widely tipped to win the next election due by mid-2010, have said they will freeze public sector pay for more than four million workers in 2011 to help bring down government borrowing.

They are also expected to sharply cut back expenditure to reduce a deficit that is seen hitting more than 12% of gross domestic product this year, meaning job cuts could be on the way.

The latest demand (from Unison, Unite and the GMB unions) covers local government workers including cleaners, teaching assistants, social workers and refuse collectors.

‘The 2.5% claim is modest and takes account of the tough economic climate and the predicted inflation rate for next year,’ said Unison’s head of local government Heather Wakefield.

‘We believe this claim is both realistic and affordable.’

Labour have proposed a pay freeze or minimal rise for the 750,000 best paid staff on the state payroll.

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