STRIKES by Colchester Council staff have been put on hold while workers decide if they will accept a new pay offer. 

Unison, which represents Colchester Council employees, revealed on Tuesday three-quarters of council staff had voted in favour of industrial action.

Two separate ballots at Colchester Council and Colchester Borough Homes returned votes of roughly 75 per cent in favour of striking, with turnout exceeding the legal threshold.

It comes after workers rejected an offer by the council of a rise of £1,000 for most employees, which is increased for its lowest paid staff, and a one-off lump sum.

In a bid to resolve the ongoing dispute an urgent agenda item was put before the council's cabinet on Wednesday night. 

The council has now agreed to apply to the National Joint Council for a £1,925 pay increase on all spinal column points from April 1.

This comes to a cost of £600,000, which would be funded from council reserves.

During the meeting, deputy council leader Mark Cory said he did support the right for strike action, however, would “ensure a settlement is reached beforehand”.

Gazette: Councillor Mark CoryCouncillor Mark Cory

However, Mr Cory, who is also the Portfolio Holder for Resources, added: “There will be consequences when we have to pay out more to staff.

“We do have to look where in the budget we are going to find the money to be able to do that."

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “It’s a shame that it took a vote for strikes for Colchester Council to improve its pay offer.

“Even if Colchester staff do get the same rise as colleagues at other councils, they’ll still be on less money. Colchester pay has lagged behind national rates for years now.

“But council and homes workers are holding off on any industrial action while they consider this new offer.”

Pam Donnelly, Chief Executive of Colchester City Council, said: “We were obviously disappointed that UNISON members voted in favour of industrial action.

"This is a situation we absolutely want to avoid and will do what we can to ensure the vital services we provide to residents are not disrupted in any way. 

“With that in mind, we have set out a new offer to UNISON, which matches the national pay offer.

“We really do understand the difficulties our staff face with the cost-of-living crisis and that the current economic climate is incredibly challenging for everyone.

"As an organisation, we face the same pressures and increasing financial challenges.

"The cost-of-living crisis, alongside the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and rising energy costs, amongst other factors, has placed significant pressure on our budgets.    

“We are pleased UNISON is considering this new offer, and that no industrial action will take place during this period of deliberation."

Council staff, including those working for Colchester Borough Homes, had asked for an above-inflation pay rise to make up for years of wages failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The union says any strikes could hit refuse collections, including garden waste, leisure facilities like Leisure World, the crematorium, parking enforcement, and housing services.