Staff at Harrogate Borough Council to vote on strike action after rejecting 1.75% pay rise offer

Staff at Harrogate Borough Council are to be balloted over strike action in a row over pay.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:49 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:50 pm
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters on St Luke's Mount.

Unison members at the authority will vote on whether to take action as part of a nationwide ballot after a 1.75% pay rise offer from the Local Government Association (LGA) was rejected last week.

The offer - which was also made to school staff and included a 2.75% rise for those on the very lowest pay point - was rejected by 74% of Unison members in Harrogate and 79% of members across the UK.

David Houlgate, secretary of the union's local branch, said the vote outcome "makes clear the strength of feeling among local government workers about their pay here in Harrogate, but nationwide too".

He added: "Council and school workers have been the unsung heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic, working tirelessly and often at risk to their own safety to serve their communities.

"The 1.75% pay offer is completely inadequate and Unison members have made their feelings about it clear.

"As such, Unison is now moving to ballot members to ask if they are willing to take industrial action."

Mr Houlgate said staff will be sent ballot papers in November or December and that depending on the vote outcome, strike action could happen at the start of next year.

With many councils already facing a recruitment crisis, this could have a major impact on key services including education and bin collections.

The LGA previously offered a 1.5% increase to both council and school staff in May, but this was also rejected after a vote.

Tabling its latest 1.75% offer, the LGA said this was "final" and represented "the limit of affordability for most councils" which have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Mr Houlgate has argued that the offer has failed to take into account numerous pay freezes and inflation which he said has seen pay for local government staff cut by around 25% in real terms since 2010.

He previously said: "This is a shocking way to treat staff who went above and beyond during the pandemic, kept communities safe, supported businesses, cared for the most vulnerable and ensured schools remained open throughout successive lockdowns."

Both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council are not involved in the negotiations as they are being conducted at a national level.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter