Strike looms at council firm as pay offer is branded 'woefully inadequate'

Adam Oakes of Unite 

Adam Oakes, Unite's regional officer, - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Strike action is looming at a council-owned company after unions voted to reject a pay offer they described as "woefully inadequate".

Union members at Norwich City Services Ltd (NCSL) - which is responsible for park and building maintenance in the city - were overwhelmingly in favour of supporting industrial action in the indicative ballot.

They have rejected an offer of 4.2pc rise, having called for a 10pc increase.

Union representatives in Norwich

Unite regional officer, Adam Oakes and Jonathan Dunning, Unison Norfolk branch secretary. - Credit: Unite / Unison

The vote was not on whether to strike or not but whether to reject the pay offer and if members would like to pursue a future strike.

In total, 100pc of NCSL Unison members and 93pc of Unite members rejected the offer.

NCSL is an arm's length company owned by the Labour-controlled council.

As well as parks and housing maintenance, its responsibilities also include street cleaning and house building, and other work previously done by Norfolk County Council-owned Norse, before the city council ended those contracts and workers moved to NCSL.

Unite, which represents about 200 workers at NCSL said staff needed higher pay while inflation has soared to around 9pc.

NCSL protesters outside the St Andrew's Hall 

NCSL workers have voted overwhelmingly against a pay offer - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Norwich City Council are asking an already low paid workforce to take a pay cut – that’s simply unacceptable. 

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"This vote sends a clear signal that they need to think again about their woefully inadequate pay offer."

Adam Oakes, Unite's regional officer,  accused the council of failing to deliver on promises to put in place the funding required to bring the wages of the lowest-paid NCSL workers up to that of its directly paid staff.

Adam Oakes of Unite 

Adam Oakes, Unite's regional officer, - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

He added: “The next step will be holding a strike ballot, within the next month, with the aim of achieving a decent pay award for this dedicated group of workers who keep Norwich’s streets and parks clean, and repair the council’s housing stock.”

Green councillor Jamie Osborn has added to the criticism, arguing the council should not have allowed the situation to reach this stage.

Mr Osborn said the Labour administration has a responsibility to ensure that everyone who carries out work for the council is paid fairly and decently.

"A real-terms pay cut is unacceptable and these workers, who do frontline jobs keeping our city clean and safe, deserve better."

A spokesperson for Norwich City Services Ltd said: “This year’s pay offer builds on the significant increase in terms and conditions we gave our employees when they joined the company last year.

“We have been engaging with the unions throughout this process in a transparent way.

"Our offer of a 4.2% pay increase, along with further enhancements to annual leave, pensions contributions and increased sick pay is the best possible offer we can make.

"This is significantly more than others across the public sector are expected to get and recognises the pressures everyone is under.

“We very much hope that for everyone’s benefit the potential for strike action can be avoided.”