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John Swinney tells councils they need to put up more cash to avert strikes

John Swinney has said local councils must match the additional £140 million that the Scottish Government has put towards wages for staff (Katharine Hay/PA)
John Swinney has said local councils must match the additional £140 million that the Scottish Government has put towards wages for staff (Katharine Hay/PA)

John Swinney said the Scottish Government will put up more than £100 million of taxpayers’ cash in a bid to avert strikes across Scotland, but then said local authorities will need to do the same.

Cosla leaders met on Friday to discuss the prospect of strike action by members of three trade unions who have rejected a 2% pay offer, and after the Deputy First Minister said Holyrood would give them a further £140 million every year so they could up wages.

But Mr Swinney warned it would “have a significant and ongoing impact upon our fixed budget that ministers are taking steps to address” and added: “Finding a solution must be a collaborative endeavour and local authorities now need to do the same.”

“This additional funding demonstrates our commitment to local government and their staff and will allow local authorities to make a significantly enhanced pay offer,” he said.

Three unions representing local government workers: Unite, Unison and the GMB, have rejected the 2% pay rise offered.

Before the announcement from the Scottish Government, local authority leaders said they would meet again next week as they try to avoid industrial action.

Strikes are currently looming across Scotland, with council waste workers in Edinburgh already planning to walk out for almost two weeks during the capital’s busy festival season.

Wendy Dunsmore, of the Unite trade union, warned more action could be announced next week unless a new offer is put on the table – and added her union wanted a £3,000 a year pay rise for workers.

“The Tory Government in England has managed to give £1,925 to local government workers, we would have expected more than that because we would have expected the Scottish Government to beat the Tories,” she said.

“But we are looking for a substantial increase. We’ve not had a decent pay rise in 15 years. We have got workers who are earning less than they did in 2007 doing the exact same job. That is unacceptable.”

Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland head of local government, warned her members were “being forced into a position of having to take industrial action for anyone to take notice of them”.

“Inflation is projected to be as high as 13% and local government staff still only have 2% on the table – the cost of living crisis is hitting people now. They have had months to sort this out,” she said.

“As I have said many times, the last thing Unison members want is a strike, but we seem to be on a collision course to closing schools, nurseries and waste and recycling services across the country and issuing notices of action in a matter of days.”

A Cosla spokesman said: “We held constructive discussions with Scottish Government earlier this week.

“Leaders met virtually today and at this meeting agreed that they needed further information.

“Given the importance of a pay award for our workforce, council leaders wanted to seek further clarification from both the Scottish Government and the UK Government and will reconvene in the next seven days to further consider this matter.”