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Nicola Sturgeon: Councils should make ‘decent’ 5% pay offer to avert strikes

Nicola Sturgeon has called for Cosla to make a ‘decent’ pay offer to council staff (Jeff Mitchell/PA)
Nicola Sturgeon has called for Cosla to make a ‘decent’ pay offer to council staff (Jeff Mitchell/PA)

Council leaders should make a 5% pay offer to staff to avert forthcoming strikes, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Unions last week announced a slate of strike action by waste and recycling workers in authorities across the country, subsequently rejecting a new 3.5% pay offer that was described as “derisory”.

Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said leaders would like to make a better offer, but feared the extra spending could hurt local services, calling on the Scottish Government to provide more funding.

But ministers paid out £140 million to local authorities last week, which they say they expect to be matched by councils to provide a good offer.

Unless a deal can be struck, staff will walk out between August 26 and 29 and September 7 and 10.

Cleansing staff at Edinburgh City Council who are members of the GMB union also announced their intention to strike during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe between Thursday this week and August 30.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to a social housing initiative in Glasgow, the First Minister said: “Just last week, the Scottish Government gave £140 million additional funding to local government to help try to resolve pay claims.

“Therefore it’s really disappointing, in my view, that local authorities haven’t yet offered a decent 5% pay increase there.

“So I would call on local councils, we’ve put money on the table, to do your bit now so that we can resolve the issues.”

Scotland will also be hit by disruption on the railways on Thursday, with strike action by the RMT union elsewhere impacting on the signalling provisions north of the border.

As such, only a few services will be available, mostly in the central belt.

When asked about the disruption, the First Minister suggested that the UK Government should “get back to their desks”.

“This is another example of the UK Government being missing in action,” she said.

“This is a UK-wide Network Rail and other English train operating companies dispute – it’s not a ScotRail dispute – and yet Scotland is going to be impacted by it.

“So my message to the UK Government on this, as well as on the cost of living crisis, is for goodness sake get back to your desks and start doing the job that you’re there to do.

“Take the action to resolve this dispute so that people in Scotland and people elsewhere in the UK don’t have to suffer this disruption.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was also asked about the industrial dispute as he visited a community centre in Clydebank.

He called on both Cosla and the Scottish Government to do more to improve the pay offer, saying he had been meeting with the affected workers in recent days.

Mr Sarwar told the PA news agency: “I know the Scottish Government put forward an additional £140 million to try and increase the scale of the pay offer.

“But let’s be honest, £140 million across 32 local authorities with all the workers we’re talking about is nowhere near sufficient or good enough.

“And so what the Scottish Government needs to seriously do is to be working closely with Cosla, working closely with local government, to get people a fair pay settlement and I’ll be supporting our trade union colleagues in arguing that case.”

Unison Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter, said: “Our members will rightly question why the First Minister is calling on councils to make a 5% offer to their workforce, without providing them additional money to do so and when that level of offer has been resoundingly rejected by other public sector workers.

“It is also presumptuous to assume that an offer at that level would avert strike action – with inflation running at currently more than 10%, this level of offer would be a pay cut.

“It’s no secret that over 80% of council funds comes from the Scottish Government. This is a ridiculous situation where both Cosla and the Scottish Government are now both openly acknowledging that the 3.5% offer that is on the table is nowhere near good enough but neither will take responsibility for improving it.

“It is no wonder our members are sick of the political posturing – both Cosla and the Scottish Government need to get back round the table and agree a funding package that will allow a significantly improved pay offer to be made to these essential workers.”