UNIONS are pressing employers today for a £1.20 per hour rise for many council workers, saying they have been "locked out of the recovery".
A demonstration was due to take place at lunchtime at Swansea's Civic Centre as three unions – Unison, GMB and Unite – met the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to urge the representative body to negotiate a pay award.
Unison organiser Chris Long said pay was increasing in the private sector by two to three per cent, which compared very favourably to the one per cent offered to workers in councils, schools and academies whose pay was set at a national level under the so-called national joint council (NJC) arrangement.
He added that local Government pay had been frozen in 2010, 2011 and 2012, but that non-NJC council workers received a £250 increase in 2011 and again in 2012. This was at a time when inflation was climbing higher and higher, further eroding take-home pay across the board.
Unison chiefs have claimed that the WLGA was not negotiating.
Swansea Unison branch secretary Mike Davies said: "Our members' wages have fallen behind inflation to the tune of nearly 20 per cent over the last five years.
"They cannot understand why our employers will neither discuss the issue nor refer it for arbitration.
"They feel that they are being taken advantage of and feel completely undervalued by the national Government."
Inflation is falling at present and is currently around 1.6 per cent. Expert group the Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that wage growth will finally start to outpace inflation this year.
Unison said the cost of increasing NJC workers' pay by £1.20 per hour would cost £1.7 billion across the UK, but that the Treasury would benefit from bigger tax revenues and reduced benefits and tax credits.
Unison Cymru's head of local Government, Dominic MacAskill, said: "School and council workers are tired of being treated like they are at the bottom of the pile.
"They are tired of going that extra mile for worse than nothing. In the wake of cuts and over 10,000 job losses in Welsh councils alone, they continue to educate and support children in schools, maintain crucial local services, keep our communities clean and safe places to live and protect the homeless and vulnerable.
"It is time that one million local Government and school support workers are lifted out of poverty and given the £1.20 an hour increase we are calling for."
The WLGA has been very vocal on the severe cuts facing Welsh authorities. The Post asked it to comment on Unison's concerns over the NJC pay negotiations, but it did not comment at the time of going to press.
A Swansea Council spokesman said it could not implement a pay award for 2014 locally until the WLGA and unions had "reached a formal agreement".