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Council strike looms closer

(16/07/07) A strike by local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland moved closer today when unions formally told employers they were in dispute over pay.

UNISON and the two other unions representing council workers registered a formal dispute in preparation for an industrial action ballot.

The move comes after talks over this year's "miserly" 2% pay offer stalled last week.

UNISON, GMB and the T&G section of Unite say that employers have dragged their heels for months. Now it's time for them to make an improved offer or face a ballot for strike action.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON's head of local government, said: "This is no way to treat a group of key workers who hold local communities together, care for the elderly and vulnerable, support children's learning and who are already the lowest paid group in the public sector.

"The Local Government Association and the employers need to get their act together, behave like responsible employers and improve their offer. We know that many councils have budgeted for a rise of at least 2.5%. "The unions want to work with the government, councils and other groups of public sector workers to provide top notch services, but keeping our members as the poor relations of the public sector is the wrong way to go about it."

The three unions, who between them represent more than 1m council workers, say the door is open to negotiations if the employers manage to agree a line among themselves.

The pay dispute covers all council workers, including dinner ladies, social workers, teaching assistants, nursery and home care workers, housing staff, refuse collection and recycling, street cleaning, parks and gardens' workers, library and leisure staff.

Local government pay negotiations in Scotland are separate and a multi-year deal between unions and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is due to expire next April.