The Unite union recommended that local government workers and school support staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, turn down a 2 per cent pay offer for most this year followed by another 2 per cent from next year.
The union will now hold a “consultative ballot” of its members in the sector and consider its next steps – which will raise fears of industrial action.
National officer Jim Kennedy said pay freezes and limits imposed by Conservative governments since 2010 had cut council staffs’ pay by 21 per cent in real terms, taking inflation into account.
“Our members simply do not believe that the offer will result in enough members receiving a pay increase which is at least in line with inflation,” he said.
“The majority of Unite’s local government members are not well-paid but provide essential services to communities up and down the UK.
“The Government’s programme of austerity means that they are simply no longer financially able to keep their heads above water.”
But he added: “Unite believes that if local government employers are prepared to enter into meaningful negotiations we can reach agreement to resolve our concerns as swiftly and amicably as possible.
“Local government has been decimated by the Conservatives’ cuts and any pay settlement should be fully funded by central government.”
Members of Unison and the GMB are also covered by the pay offer.
Councillor Sian Timoney, who chairs the National Employers Side of the National Joint Council for Local Government, responded:
“The employers are extremely disappointed that Unite will be advising its members to reject the pay offer.
“The employers have been very clear that the pay offer is a final offer.
“The employers believe that the offer is fair for all staff and includes substantial increases for our lowest paid staff as well as meeting the challenge of the National Living Wage by introducing a new pay spine in 2019.”
Local authorities have been given leave by the Government to raise council tax by up to 5.99 per cent this year, to help meet the shortfall in funding for adult social care, but warn it will provide fill only a fraction towards a budget black hold they expect to hit £5.8billion by 2020.
Consumer Prices Index inflation rose to 3.1 per cent in November, while CPI inflation including owner-occupiers’ housing costs held steady at 2.8 per cent.