The lowest-paid staff at Bristol City Council will receive a one-off cash award to bring their pay up to ‘Living Wage’ levels, the authority has confirmed.
In March, the Cabinet agreed that those earning less than the Living Wage, currently set at £7.30 an hour, should be offered the award despite the current pay freeze.
Yesterday, it was confirmed the details of the award had been unanimously agreed by the council’s Human Resources Committee and had been backed by trade unions.
Cllr Sean Emmett, Assistant Cabinet Member, said: “This pay award recognises that the cost of living in the city has risen significantly over the last few years without any accompanying national wage increase for employees.
“We are committed to national pay bargaining and understand the need for pay restraint. But the reality is that the lowest paid council employees have been hit the hardest. Our long-term aim is to move towards an affordable but fair pay structure.”
There are 247 full-time equivalent council employees and 372 full-time equivalent schools’ employees who fall below the Living Wage threshold - an hourly rate set by the The Living Wage charity. Other cities have already implemented the living wage but Bristol is the only council in the South West who will make a pay award for this year.
Cllr Mike Wollacott, Chair of the HR Committee, added: “This proposal received cross-party support on the HR Committee and backing by the trade unions. This is a one-off award and is a positive step in the right direction towards fair pay.”
The announcement comes against a backdrop of severe job and spending cuts within the authority. Some £27million of cuts have been made to the £367m budget for 2012/13, with £9.5m being used to fund redundancies and “other one-off costs”. Another 350 jobs are set to go at the council this year, after 390 were lost in the previous year.
One in 14 public sector workers in the South West lost their jobs between July and September last year, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. A total of 37,000 workers employed in the region by local government, the police, the forces and the NHS lost their jobs. At 7%, that’s the largest fall in the country.
There has been no cost of living increase applied to Bristol council employees since 2009 in line with the national pay freeze, and the Local Government Association has announced a similar freeze for 2012/13.