Council workers reject 2.9% offer

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Leaders of 1.5 million local government workers yesterday rejected a "final" pay offer of 2.9 per cent which management warned would lead to thousands of job cuts and a reduction in services, writes Barrie Clement.

Representatives of local authority workers, who will today consider whether to consult employees on industrial action, were told some authorities would have to resort to compulsory redundancies to fund the increase. Yesterday's negotiating session follows a 2-per-cent offer to 500,000 nurses last week to be topped up with local negotiations, and awards of up to 6.8 per cent to doctors.

Keith Sonnet, head of the local government and public service union, Unison, expressed disappointment over the offer, which matched the inflation rate published yesterday, and which had been raised from 2.4 per cent: "Frankly the offer of 2.9 per cent is an insult to council workers who have watched their living standards fall year after year."

He said the claim for a pounds 4.15-an-hour minimum rate was not unreasonable: "Workers have consistently had to bear the burden of cuts in local government which has led to increasing workloads."

Charles Nolda, chief negotiator for the Local Government Management Board, described the offer as fair: "We have reached our limit. We have no further room for manoeuvre.

He added: "For many authorities compulsory redundancies are now a reality."