Unison members at Harrogate Borough Council reject 1.75% pay rise offer

Staff at Harrogate Borough Council have rejected a 1.75% pay rise offer described as "derisory" by union officials.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 9:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 9:34 am
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters on St Luke's Mount.

The proposed increase - which also included a 2.75% rise for those on the very lowest pay point - was rejected by 73.8% of Unison members who took part in a ballot held this month.

David Houlgate, secretary of the union's Harrogate branch, said the outcome was no surprise and that staff "at the very least deserve a decent pay rise for once".

He said: "Staff are worn down after years of real-terms pay cuts and with inflation at nearly 4%.

"Despite this they’ve continued to go above and beyond during the pandemic in providing much needed services to support residents and businesses alike in the district.”

“There has still been no formal public recognition for their efforts from the council but to be clear, Unison is in no doubt that council staff have been fantastic over the past 18 months or so and at the very least deserve a decent pay rise for once."

The same offer made by the Local Government Association (LGA) was also rejected by school staff at Unison's North Yorkshire branch.

LGA previously offered a 1.5% increase to both council and school staff in May, but a ballot resulted in the same outcome.

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

But Unison has warned that strike action is a real possibility if an agreement can not be reached, with Mr Houlgate previously saying "no one wants to take industrial action but sometimes it does become necessary".

He also said numerous pay freezes coupled with inflation have seen pay for local government staff cut by around 25% in real terms since 2010.

"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," he said at the start of the ballot.

The Harrogate and North Yorkshire branches are now awaiting ballot results from across England and Wales which will determine what action is taken by Unison next.

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