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Much better pay offer needed to avert council worker strike, says union

A ‘significantly improved’ pay offer is needed to prevent a strike by council workers, a union has said (Peter Byrne/PA)
A ‘significantly improved’ pay offer is needed to prevent a strike by council workers, a union has said (Peter Byrne/PA)

Council workers across Scotland need a “significantly improved” pay offer if the prospect of strike action is to be averted, a leading trade unionist has insisted.

Keir Greenaway, a senior organiser with GMB Scotland has now challenged both the Scottish Government and local authorities to “step up” and try to resolve the pay dispute.

Council workers in three unions: the GMB, Unison and Unite, have already given their backing to industrial action after rejecting the the 2% pay increase offered to them local authority leaders.

That could see some school staff, early years workers and employees in council cleansing departments all walk out on strike.

Talks have been scheduled for later on Wednesday to try to resolve the pay dispute – something Mr Greenaway said could only happen “if the Scottish Government can find more money” for councils.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the trade union organiser said: “For me, the Scottish Government has got the ability, has got some levers to raise income for itself to be able to give to public services and it is not taking those options.”

He added: “It is up to the Scottish Government to come on and think of some of those solutions.

“What I know is our members need a significantly improved pay offer.”

Mr Greenaway said that half of all council workers in Scotland earned £25,000 a year or less – adding that the 2% pay rise offered “was less than a tenner a week for most of them, so it just didn’t go far enough”.

But he accused both ministers and leaders of the local government body Cosla of lacking the political will to settle the matter.

Mr Greenaway said: “I wouldn’t say we were confident, we haven’t had a meeting with Cosla around pay since March.

“We’ve been making these arguments since then that the Scottish Government needed to step in and find some money for councils, but there has been political inaction from councils and the Scottish Government since March.”

With the prospect of industrial action closing schools and seeing rubbish go uncollected, Mr Greenaway added this could be avoided if a “significantly improved offer is put to our members”.

In such circumstances, he said, union members could consider any improved pay offer and “if that is good enough then industrial action is avoided”.

But Mr Greenaway said: “We question how hard the Scottish Government and Cosla have been working on this.

“The last time we received an offer it was rejected, that was in March, we have not had any discussions or negotiations since, there has been no offer since that point.

“So we have been left in a position where we have had to take a vote for industrial action, and our members have voted because they are incredibly angry and we are looking for the Scottish Government and Cosla to step up.

“Our members are seeing double-digit inflation, they are seeing no sight or sound of an offer, they are supposed to have their pay rise in April and they are looking at fuel increases, gas prices going up again and they are really concerned.

“They are struggling to get by now and they is concern for the future for them and their families.”

He continued: “The 2% offer that is on the table is the lowest offer that is on the table across the public sector across the UK, and it is obviously a very woeful offer when we are looking at double-digit inflation.

“What we do need is a significantly improved offer that is going to face into the cost of living challenge our members are facing.”

Following a meeting with Cosla leaders this afternoon, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Although the Scottish Government has no formal role in the national pay negotiations for local government workers, we are working jointly with Cosla to explore all options available and held constructive discussions today with council leaders.

“Local government workers play a crucial role in our communities and are integral to our recovery from the pandemic. I would urge all parties to continue a dialogue and reach a resolution which avoids industrial action.”