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Lack of improved pay offer will ‘increase anger and fear’ – union leaders

Waste workers could go on strike in Edinburgh (David Cheskin/PA)
Waste workers could go on strike in Edinburgh (David Cheskin/PA)

Union leaders say the lack of an improved pay offer will “only increase anger and fear” in a dispute with Scottish councils.

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.

The council leaders decided they needed more information and opted to reconvene in the next week.

Waste and recycling workers at Edinburgh City Council are already planning to walk out for almost two weeks during the capital’s busy festival season.

Council organises cleanup
The strike is scheduled for the busy festival season (Edinburgh City Council/PA)

Responding to Friday’s meeting, GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “The ongoing inaction on pay will only increase the anger and fear among our members – anger about the total lack of value being shown to them and fear about what the winter will bring.

“In the six months since the 2% was rejected, staff have suffered badly in a cost-of-living crisis that’s now spiralling out of control.

“More of our members are affected by debt, fuel poverty and hunger, and this will only get worse with further rises to inflation and energy bills.”

He continued: “It is shameful that swathes of our public services are delivered by people in working poverty and it’s disturbing that our political leaders won’t confront it.

“This crisis will turn into a catastrophe for tens of thousands of key workers, and more councils will face more strikes unless a significantly improved pay offer is tabled.”

Earlier, Wendy Dunsmore of the Unite trade union said more action could be announced next week unless a new offer is put on the table.

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

With the cleansing staff in Edinburgh set to strike between August 18 and 30, Ms Dunmore said the action will mean “the streets of Edinburgh are messy, there is going to be no litter picked up”.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It’s not just Edinburgh, other councils will be going out on strike and there will be announcements next week on that.”

But she said “there is an out for this”, insisting workers “don’t want to go on strike”.

She said: “If the Scottish Government would give money and if Colsa would increase the offer we can stop that.

“The Scottish Government holds the purse strings to Cosla, the Scottish Government finances local government, so the Scottish Government can step in.

“They’ve done it in the past for teachers, they’re doing it for the NHS, they are doing it for ScotRail, so they can step in for Scottish local government.

“They have starved local government of funding for the last 10 years, they have cut year on year the budgets, that’s why councils can’t afford to pay their staff.”

Fringe performer
Waste and recycling workers in Edinburgh are to strike just as the city welcomes thousands of visitors for festival season (Jane Barlow/PA)

She called for all local authority workers to receive an increase of at least £3,000, adding: “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.”

Business minister Ivan McKee told the BBC: “What I can say is the Deputy First Minister John Swinney is in very constructive conversation with Cosla on this matter and we’re hopeful we’ll make good progress there.

“While it’s a matter for local authorities, as an employer we are very much engaged in the process and as I say there’s some very constructive conversations happening as we speak.”

A Cosla spokesperson 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.”