Better school and public sector pay ‘the least the Government can do’

Green councillors in Brighton and Hove have successfully urged local government to back a trade union campaign calling on central government to pay school and public sector workers fairly.

An image of a school classroom
An image of a school classroom
Emma Love

A trade union campaign for fair pay for council and school staff has received council backing in Brighton and Hove, following a successful proposal by Green councillors to lobby the Government to fund a pay award.

Since 2010, staff working in public sector roles such as local government have seen pay reductions of up to 25 per cent, following local council budget cuts made by central government, and a continued pay freeze.

In February, trade unions lodged a national pay claim, calling for a 10 per cent increase in pay for staff. The negotiations, which are still underway, have most recently seen an offer of a 1.5 per cent award rejected.

Negotiations are being held by the National Joint Council (NJC), which negotiates the pay, terms, and conditions of staff in local authorities, and is made up of representatives from UNISON, other trade unions, and local government employers. 

Green councillors in Brighton and Hove have also joined calls for a proper pay rise for NHS workers and a reinstatement of paid bursaries for nurses, as well as supporting calls for a proper living wage and universal basic income.

Green Councillor Sue Shanks, who seconded the proposal to the council, commented: “After a decade of cuts many local council workers and school staff were already without the capacity and support they needed –  then the pandemic hit. 

“Despite its immense effects, public sector employees working in so many roles – from tidy up teams and contact tracers, to child social work, teaching and school support staff – rose to the challenge.

“We join the calls for the Government to fund proper pay for NHS staff, for our health and care staff. But trade unions are right to say that the Government must not dismiss the value of other public services too, as each service supports the other. 

“The current offer of a 1.5% pay rise doesn’t come close to being a pay increase, given inflation is now at 2.9%. The Government must fully fund a proper pay award rather than push this on to councils already absorbing huge budget cuts. 

“Low pay has a profound impact on public health. The biggest thing we could do as a country to improve health and life chances would be to ensure a decent level of benefits and pay. 

“The Government has the power to do this, to take people out of poverty and improve the health and educational outcomes for everyone – across the board. 

“Given people have gone from pay freeze to pay freeze, better pay is the least the Government can do to acknowledge they relied on public service workers to get the country through the biggest health crisis it has seen in years.”