Surrey unison members protest= against the anti-trade union bill. Photo: Paul Couchman
Surrey unison members protest= against the anti-trade union bill. Photo: Paul Couchman

Paul Couchman, secretary Surrey County Unison (personal capacity)

Thousands of staff in the Unison trade union at Surrey County Council are to be balloted over the next few weeks for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Social workers, teaching assistants, librarians, trading standards officers and many more are among those being asked to vote for industrial action over a pay offer from the council that falls far short of inflation.

53% of members responded in our recent consultation, with 87% rejecting the council’s offer. A whopping 91% of those said they would vote for strike action in the event of there being no improvement in the council’s offer.

The offer is a 4% increase in the council’s overall pay bill. The lowest-paid staff would receive an increase of 9%, but the vast majority would receive less than 5%. This is considerably below the £3,500 increase we claimed as a fair rise for workers, with £15 an hour as minimum pay.

The current offer will mean most workers would receive an increase of between £1,300 and £1,500 a year. Local government workers on NJC terms (the National Joint Council – which most councils are part of, but Surrey isn’t) received nearly £2,000 each year in the last two years.

Most councils local to Surrey awarded £2,000 or more last year, when Surrey workers received an average of £1,500. Our members are being left further and further behind!

After years of below-inflation pay increases and with the soaring cost of living, staff are struggling. There’s still no end in sight to spiralling bills. It’s not too late for the council to think again.

The following Socialist Party members are standing for election in the forthcoming Unison service group elections:

  • Local Government: Mathew John, Angie Waller
  • Health: Steve Bell, Adrian O’Malley
  • Community: Helen Couchman