Surrey County UNISON members have voted clearly (by 95%) to reject the council's 'final' offer. Unfortunately (in our opinion) the GMB have voted to accept. We are now trying to get the council back to the negotiating table. Votes cast 520. YES 25, NO 495. A turnout of 37%.
The ballot result is fairly conclusive but it needs to be seen in context:
The Surrey Advertiser on 26th August carried a report of research into the average house price in every postcode in Britain, which worked out how much an individual would need to earn to be able to get a mortgage on the average house in their area. In Surrey County Council, only 5 current employees would be able to purchase a house in Surrey according to these findings – the Chief Executive Officer and 4 of the current directors. Hopeful buyers in Surrey would need to earn around £85 per hour to buy the average home (approx. £160,000pa). In Middlesborough the figure is just £2.15 per hour.
Not surprisingly, households in Surrey have some of the highest amounts of outstanding mortgage debt in the country. According to the Council for Mortgage Lenders, homeowners in Surrey owed an average of £95,525 in mortgage borrowing per household – half again as much as the national average. The amount owed in GU22 (part of Woking) has risen by 13% in the last year – the largest rise in the country.
‘Surrey Uncovered’ – a report from the Community Foundation for Surrey, shows that in-work poverty has grown considerably over the past four years and that 10% (22,640) of children in Surrey live in poverty – of which two-thirds live in working households struggling to manage. In 17 neighbourhoods, at least 30% of children live in poverty. 13 Surrey neighbourhoods are within the worst 20% of areas for income deprivation in the country.
Surrey Advertiser 11 and 25 August: Increase in food bank use in Surrey. “Salaries are among the highest of anywhere outside London, but low income, foodbanks and even a clothes bank are becoming regular features in the lives of more people in the county”. Surrey food banks gave out more than 14,000 three-day food parcels in 2016/17 – up nearly 20% on the previous year (nationally food bank use was up by 6.6%). Persistent low income is the leading reason for referral in Surrey. Alison Buckland, Woking food bank administrator (which has seen an increased use of 24% in the first six months of 2017) said “this is a big jump, with a marked increase in the number of people referred to us who are struggling on low incomes”.
- We believe SCC should be giving a lead – they have a social conscience and should show they value their staff
- We have endured below inflation increases every single year for almost 10 years
- We are now faced with an actual pay freeze - a zero cost of living/market increase
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report that public sector pay increased by only 4.1% between 2010-2016, whilst - Rents went up 17% - Electricity 28% - Childrens Nursery schools 21%
- We disagree fundamentally with the selection of data the council has used in determining market rates. The Cost of Living, the private sector and, particularly, the Market in London should be considered
- Current benchmarking only to Surrey not-for-profit and the public sector means SCC is leading a Race to the Bottom in low pay
- We have produced a chart showing minimum wage rates – Surrey is shockingly low (particularly in schools – which we are yet to discuss) but elsewhere (mainly in commercial services) – we pay less than Aldi!
- There is also huge perceived unfairness in the differences between the increase in some grades and not others. Particularly the leap in pay for those on the bottom and the middle of S12.
- Where we are calling for a minimum wage rate of £10 ph to be phased in by 2020 (the overall increase would be only slightly more than those on the bottom of S12 are being offered this year (£2,507)!
- The other area where our members have expressed some anger is the feeling of betrayal (their words) of those with headroom, who (rightly or wrongly) felt they would be moving up their pay scales at a faster rate than the 1% now being proposed. They feel they were sold a deal on that basis.
A letter was sent to HR the day after we had our last negotiation meeting and where the union ballot results where presented. Our letter confirms the position we have been mandated to adopt by our reps, our officers and now our members via the ballot. You can read the letter, which has been sent to all UNISON members in SCC (excluding schools), HERE