Surrey County Council workers to strike?

Map of Surrey

Staff at Surrey County Council could walk out after a “record number” of people backed strike action –  unless the authority makes a significantly improved pay offer, unions have said.

For the last two years the workers at the council have been offered less than the National Joint Council (NJC)  pay award and less than most other neighbouring councils, according to Unison.

Those working in local government and schools have their pay and other conditions are negotiated by the NJC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that those offers were rejected.

Last year, turnout for a full-strike ballot fell 40 votes short of the threshold required for legal industrial action, and the pay settlement imposed without agreement.

This year, a consultative ballot of members, covering core Surrey County Council workers and support staff in Surrey maintained schools, concluded on Friday, March 1, and achieved enough votes with a 53 per cent turnout – with 87 per cent of members rejecting the 4 per cent average pay offer, and 91 per cent of those voting for strike action,  record in Surrey.

Union representatives are due to meet next week and have said that unless staff receive a “significantly improved offer” they will “be recommending a vote for a full legal industrial action ballot over the next few weeks”.

Paul Couchman, branch secretary of Surrey Unison, said: “Our members are more frustrated and more angry than they have ever been. Voting over 90 per cent for potential strike action is unprecedented in Surrey. We hope the council will see the strength of feeling of their staff and reconsider their offer. 

“If there is no significantly improved offer from the council in the next few days we will have no choice other than to go to a formal ballot for strike action, where we are confident our members will once again respond positively to a call for action.”

It comes as the county council’s new £30 million payroll system was reported to have left staff “wiping tears of frustration and helplessness” over missed payments.

The council brought in a new Enterprise Resource Planning system last June and said it had “experienced some issues relating to payroll” and that it had been working to improve the system but given its complexity, needed an ongoing programme of software upgrades and fixes to address issues that have arisen.

Mr Couchman added: “No doubt the anger and frustration over the payroll issues has added to the general cost of living crisis, making Surrey County Council employees vote in unprecedentedly high numbers for strike action.”

A spokesperson for Surrey said: “We are still in talks with the Trade Unions regarding the 2024/25 pay offer therefore it would be inappropriate to comment while these discussions are still ongoing.”

Related reports:

Computer lets down County Council workers