Unions talk of industrial action after Northamptonshire County Council pay freeze

Northamptonshire County Council staff have not had a pay rise above 1 percent since before 2010.
Northamptonshire County Council staff have not had a pay rise above 1 percent since before 2010.

Union officials will be holding an emergency meeting due to another pay freeze for Northamptonshire County Council staff – and industrial action is not being ruled out.

Yesterday the authority’s staff were told in an email by chief executive Theresa Grant they would not be getting a pay rise in April, despite the organisation bringing in an extra £5.8m through a council tax rise and also saying it was making big headway in its finances. The chief executive said there may be a pay rise mid-year through but did not give any guarantees.

Now the unions will hold crunch talks and decide whether the staff want to go on strike.

Workers have not been given a pay rise above one per cent since 2010 and were removed from national pay and conditions in 2013.

GMB branch secretary Rachelle Wilkins said: “We will consult with our members and if we have to ballot them for industrial action we will. We don’t want to but this may be the only language the council understands.

“I am astonished that the council has not taken the opportunity after the fourth year of pay freezes in a row to at least give the staff what they should be getting in line with the national joint council rules.”

Unison branch secretary Kevin Standish-Day said: “Although we welcome additional money for some services, pay for this council appears to be an afterthought.

“Last year staff in Northamptonshire didn’t get a cost of living pay increase and again now in 2019 they’re receiving nothing. Staff are being further penalised by not receiving the incremental pay progression or sick pay that many other councils provide. The failings of this authority have been well publicised and it is loyal, hardworking staff who are again paying the price.”

Unison estimates that the amount withheld through lack of pay rises and no pay increments has saved the council £30m since 2013.

Theresa Grant did say in her email that a pay rise for staff had been budgeted for from April 2020. However, the council will most likely no longer exist by then and that decision will be made by shadow boards set up for the planned new unitary authorities.

The pay freeze news comes after an announcement this week by the police, fire and crime commissioner’s office that former NCC fire staff who from January come under his department will be getting a two per cent pay rise and will also be having their sick pay paid. The commissioner’s finance officer Helen King said it was being done for equality reasons and the cost of the sick pay day to the organisation was very small.