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New pay offer planned for council employees as strikes loom

Strikes have been organised over the pay dispute (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Strikes have been organised over the pay dispute (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Council leaders will make a new pay offer to workers as the threat of strike action looms.

GMB Scotland and Unison said local authority employees across the country will strike across the country in two four-day stoppages over the next month in a dispute over pay.

Waste and recycle workers will walk out between August 26 and 29 as well as between September 7 and 10.

Authorities where GMB members have decided to strike are Aberdeen, Angus, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Highland, Midlothian, Orkney, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Perth and Kinross, and North Lanarkshire.

Unison members in Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Stirling and South Lanarkshire have also said they will walk out.

Following a special meeting of council leaders on Friday, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said she has been mandated to make a fresh offer.

The aim will be to increase the Scottish local government living wage to £10.50 an hour.

Council leaders have reaffirmed their desire to make an offer of more than 2% – however fears have been expressed that public services and jobs will be impacted as a result.

Ms Hagmann said: “Following the confirmation that the additional monies provided by the Scottish Government will be recurring, leaders have now mandated me today to move forward with our trade union partners on the basis of an offer that raises the Scottish local government living wage to £10.50.

“Leaders have reaffirmed their aspiration to make an offer greater than the initial 2% but note the risk that public services will not recover, jobs will be affected and communities will see services reduced as local government budgets are unable to sustain the long-term pressures they have been under.

“Leaders continue to call on Scottish Government to provide funding and flexibilities to enable an offer beyond the monies provided to date.

“As such we will be seeking to make an improved offer via the appropriate negotiating mechanisms as soon as possible.”

It has faced backlash from the SNP’s Cosla group, which says it is “disappointed” the offer is not being put forward right now.

Councillor Douglas Reid, the party’s Cosla leaders co-convener, said: “Today’s outcome is in no way adequate and the SNP group in Cosla is disappointed that an increased pay offer to unions is not being put forward right now.

“At a time when so many hard working people are worried about rising bills and increasingly relying on local services, we should be prioritising getting around the table with the unions so that the situation can move forwards with what we believe to be a credible increased pay offer.”

He added: “Fundamentally, our employees are vital to helping us face and address current and emerging challenges, and local authority administrations need to step up and take responsibility here.”

Johanna Baxter, head of local government at Unison Scotland, said the union was “shocked and disappointed” by the offer.

She said: “An offer of 3.5% likely to be totally unacceptable to our reps and is some way off matching the offer made to council workers south of the border.

While the union considers the offer, there will be no suspension of the strike action, it has been confirmed.

Ms Baxter added: “We have already served notice on the employers and set dates for our waste workers. Our local branches are strike-ready and dates for strike action in schools and early years centres will be announced in the coming days.

“Unison members deliver essential work in education, environmental health, leisure and parks, social care, waste and recycling, social work and much, much more.

“Over half staff in local government get paid under £25,000 per year. And now they are being told by Scottish Government and Cosla that this year they should accept a 10% pay cut during the biggest cost of living crisis we’ve seen in decades?

“It’s an insult and our members deserve better. Cosla and the Scottish Government need to get back around the table and find a solution.”

Unite Scotland this week announced 1,500 cleansing workers will walk out on August 24 and 31 unless an acceptable pay offer is made.

Unison has also said strike dates for school and early years workers will be announced in due course.

GMB Scotland’s senior organiser Keir Greenaway described the offer as a “dire response”, increasing the worry that strike action by union members is imminent.

“(The offer) will almost certainly lock in more strikes but let’s also be clear that many frontline staff will fall into working poverty this winter unless this pay offer is significantly increased,” he said.

“The blame game between Cosla and the Government will no doubt continue, but six months on from the overwhelming rejection of the initial pay offer, this is a damning indictment of how our council workers are valued by Scotland’s political leaders.”