The UNISON NJC Committee met on 8 November to consider the NJC pay claim for 2023-24. This cost of living pay award is due for payment from 1 April 2023.
The 2022-23 pay settlement
For NJC 2022-23, we submitted a claim for an increase of £2,000 or Retail Price Inflation (RPI), whichever was the greater. The Employers offered an increase of £1,925, which after consulting members, was accepted. 63.5% of UNISON members voted to accept. This was the picture across the country though. West Sussex members voted to REJECT the deal, with 72.2% voting against the deal, prepared to take action for better.
£1,925 was the largest pay increase achieved for local government workers in many years, but it was still significantly below the rate of inflation, at the time of a cost of living crisis.
The NJC Committee are therefore proposing that our claim for 2023-24 should specifically seek an increase that is above inflation.
The 2023-24 pay claim – proposed headline claim
A pay increase of RPI + 2%, AND an increase in mileage rates
The NJC Committee proposes that the 2023-24 pay claim is for an increase of RPI + 2%, and the branches are now consulting members on whether members support this proposal. RPI inflation, the inflation measure which UNISON believes is the most accurate reflection of the cost of living realities our members face, is currently at 14.2% (October figures).
CPI versus RPI
Often the media will talk more about Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rather than Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation. This is because CPI is the government’s preferred way to calculate inflation. However, CPI inflation does not reflect the true increase in the cost of living because it leaves out housing costs! Most working people have to pay housing costs from their wages, whether that be rent or mortgages. These costs are on the increase due to rents going up and mortgage interest rates going up. So it is right that the union bases our claim on RPI inflation.
RPI is currently at 14.2% (October figures), and CPI is 11.1% (October figures).
Mileage rates in the claim
The UNISON NJC Committee also recognises that mileage is a huge concern for many members. It is therefore also proposed that the 2023-24 pay claim has a strong focus on improving mileage rates.
Local government funding
There is a funding crisis in local government, with local authorities facing a combined funding gap of £3.19 billion for the 2023/24 financial year rising to over £5 billion in 2024/25. These figures are based on recent UNISON research. And we know that schools are struggling financially due to the Government’s year on year cuts in real terms public spending.
However, throughout the union we are campaigning hard for more funding from the Westminster Conservative Government for councils, and pay must be considered in this context. The Westminster Government can definitely afford to fund a decent pay increase for local government workers if enough pressure is applied. We know that far more can be done to make money available – for example some multi-national companies avoid paying huge amounts of tax, money that could be used for local government pay. And the very-rich, multi-millionaires, pay far too little in tax, which not only leaves our public services underfunded, but distorts our whole economy leading to asset prices rises, like house price inflation. The money is there if we can get the Government to fund councils and council workers properly.
In previous years we have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling on him to fully fund local government pay increases and we will continue to put pressure on the Treasury during the forthcoming pay round. We also continue to push the employers and the Local Government Associations of the UK’s nations to work with us and demand that the Government fund a decent pay increase for council and school workers.
Low pay in local government
Low pay continues to be a concern in local government. The bottom three spinal column points are now £10.50, £10.60 and £10.79 outside London. These are below the new Foundation Living Wage rate of £10.90 outside London, which comes into effect in May 2023.
UNISON has existing Conference policy calling for a £15 an hour minimum wage.
The NJC Committee has agreed that our core objective must continue to focus on the restoration of decent pay levels for all members, and that we need a bold, straightforward claim linked to the escalating cost of living.
The Committee is therefore proposing a headline claim of an increase on all pay points of RPI +2%, from 1 April 2023, plus a focus on increasing mileage rates.
Following completion of our consultation processes, the 2023-24 pay claim will be submitted in January 2023. Please take part! We link to the consultation survey below.
WSCC members on HAY, Agenda for Change and SMG4 pay scales can take part because your pay award is in practice based on NJC awards.