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Council workers offered improved pay offer but unions say it is still not enough

A rally outside Edinburgh City Council chambers as cleansing workers (PA)
A rally outside Edinburgh City Council chambers as cleansing workers (PA)

Council workers have been offered a 5% pay rise following a special meeting with leaders across all of Scotland’s local authorities on Friday, but unions have warned this is still not enough.

It comes after cleansing workers in Edinburgh began an 11-day strike on Thursday after turning down an initial offer of 3%.

The offer will see the Scottish Government local government living wage increase to £10.50.

Cleansing workers strike
Bins in Cockburn Street in Edinburgh. Cleansing workers at the City of Edinburgh Council have begun 11 days of strike action (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Local Government minister Shona Robison confirmed this will be funded with £140 million of additional cash from the Scottish Government.

COSLA resources spokesperson, Councillor Katie Hagmann, said: “Following Leaders Special meeting on Friday, they have mandated me to move forward with our trade union partners on the basis of an offer that raises the overall value to 5% and in addition raises the Scottish Local Government Living Wage to £10.50.

“In doing so, leaders have reaffirmed the need for a discussion with Scottish Government on how they can support councils by providing flexibilities and long-term funding support. This will limit the risk to public services and the impact on communities.”

But unions argue the offer is still not enough, emphasising that inflation is at a 40-year high.

Alison Maclean, Unite industrial officer, said: “It has taken COSLA over five months to make an offer which we can take to our members for consideration.

“While the 5% offer is an improvement, it is important to emphasise that it comes at a time when the broader retail price index has now hit a 40-year high at 12.3%.

“Unite’s local government committee will urgently consider this latest offer. At this juncture the strikes for next week continue as planned.”

Local Government Minister Shona Robison said the improved offer was a “welcome step forward”.

She said: “This increased pay offer to local government workers is a welcome step forward and has been supported by the Scottish Government’s commitment of an additional £140 million for council workers’ pay on a recurring basis.

Scottish Parliament
Local Government minister Shona Robison said the offer is a ‘welcome step forward’ (Fraser Bremner/PA)

“Throughout discussions, despite ministers having no formal role in the pay negotiations between councils and their employees, we have sought to work collaboratively with COSLA while providing full transparency around our financial position.

“All areas of the public sector are having to make challenging savings to stay within existing budgets.

“The UK Government has provided no further funding for these pressures with last year’s Spending Review not taking account of the levels of pay uplift needed or the wider effects of inflation. Nevertheless, we have sought to support a meaningful revised offer in the face of the cost emergency.”

GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “The latest proposals will be considered by our local government committee, but the principle of a flat rate award is a key demand of the trade union pay claim.

“For any offer to be deemed worthy of our members full consultation the biggest cash increases must go to the lowest paid.”