Northamptonshire County Council improves sick pay for staff but unions say there is still a long way to go

Unions say they want a return to national pay and conditions for Northamptonshire County Council staff.
Unions say they want a return to national pay and conditions for Northamptonshire County Council staff.

Unions fighting for better pay and conditions for Northamptonshire County Council staff have had a victory this week but say they still have a long way to go.

The council’s chief executive Theresa Grant announced to staff yesterday (Feb 18) that they would now be paid their first day’s sick pay, a benefit that was taken away five years ago.

A spokesman for the authority said today (Feb 19) the move was ‘reflective of the continued hard work by staff to help turn the organisation around.’

Unions have welcomed the move but still say more is needed. They want a two per cent pay rise for staff, incremental pay rises returned and better long term sick pay conditions. Staff at Northamptonshire County Council have worse terms and conditions than at neighbouring local authorities.

Northamptonshire Unison assistant branch secretary Lorna Smith said: “We are glad that the council have responded to one of our demands on behalf of members. There is however still a long way to go to return staff to the nationally agreed terms and conditions they are entitled to. We will continue to speak up for members who this year haven’t even had a cost of living pay rise.”

The council angered staff at the start of this month when it said that despite making huge headway in its finances it would not be able to give a pay rise to staff. After the announcement unions Unison and GMB said they would be holding an emergency meeting and said industrial action would not ruled out if that is what staff wanted.

The authority’s workforce has not had a pay increase of above one per cent since 2010.

At the county council’s budget meeting being held this Thursday (Feb 21) the council’s Liberal Democrat group will put forward an amendment to the budget for the 2019/20 financial year which would allow for a two per cent pay rise for staff. The pay rise would equal £2.1m, roughly the same amount the council will set aside in a contingency fund.

Group leader Cllr Chris Stanbra said: “This is the right thing to do. The council’s staff deserve a pay increase in 2019-20. They have worked hard throughout some very difficult times over the last year. It’s time they were rewarded for their hard work. Time after time at budget scrutiny recently when senior officers were asked what the barriers were to recruiting and retaining staff, levels of pay were given as one of the main reasons. The council must do something about this now.”

Deputy leader of the Lib Dem group Cllr Dennis Meredith added: “I’m delighted that we are putting this budget amendment forward. I’m asking all my colleagues at the council, of all parties and none, to support this amendment and support the council’s hard working staff.”

At the meeting the council will vote to approve a council tax increase of just under five per cent. This is estimated to bring in an extra £5.8m for the council.