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Unions reject ‘derisory’ council pay offer

Unison said workers will strike (Nick Ansell/PA)
Unison said workers will strike (Nick Ansell/PA)

Strike action by council workers will go ahead after union members rejected a “derisory” pay offer, Unison has said.

A fresh offer was made by local authority body Cosla on Friday, after an initial 2% pay increase was rejected.

Its new proposal included an offer equivalent to a 3.5% increase.

At a meeting on Monday, Unison unanimously agreed to reject the revised offer outright and voted overwhelmingly to continue with their strike plans at councils across Scotland.

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

Members of GMB Scotland’s local government committee have also rejected the offer and warned that strikes will be unavoidable unless a “significantly improved offer” is urgently tabled.

Johanna Baxter, head of local government at Unison Scotland, said: “This is another derisory pay offer.

“We are in a ridiculous position of both our employers and the Scottish Government agreeing this 3.5% pay offer is not nearly enough, but both are at loggerheads about who should pay for it.

“Meanwhile council workers – over half earn less than £25,000 per year – are worrying about paying the bills.

“Inflation is predicted to rise to 13.5% and our members are offered a real-terms pay cut which will plunge more of them into debt.

“We have written to Cosla to tell them the strike continues in waste and recycling and we will confirm dates for strike action in schools and early years in the coming days.”

Unison said it has rejected the offer as it has not sufficiently improved, falls far short of the Joint Trade Union’s claim (submitted in January) and falls far short of the current rate of inflation, which continues to rise.

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

Authorities where GMB members have said they will 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.

GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Friday’s offer has been totally rejected by our workplace reps in local government and no-one at Cosla or the Scottish Government should be surprised.

“Bluntly, it’s a pathetic response from political leaders to a cost-of-living crisis that’s turning into a catastrophe for many frontline workers and their families.

“Unless a significantly improved offer is urgently tabled, the strike dates already confirmed for later this month will be unavoidable, and notices for further actions will almost certainly follow as we head into autumn.”

Speaking after following a virtual special meeting of council leaders on Friday, Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said she had been mandated to make an offer that raises the Scottish local government living wage to £10.50.

She said: “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.”

Scotland’s Social Justice and Local Government Secretary Shona Robison said on Friday that the new pay offer to council workers must be reconsidered “urgently” and described the latest proposal as “extremely disappointing”.

She said: “Despite the significant additional resources we have made available – more than half the amount Cosla asked us for in order to make a 5% offer – we understand there is only a 3.5% offer on the table.

“We urge Cosla to urgently reconsider its position to avoid industrial action.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that despite providing an extra £140 million of Scottish Government funding on a recurring basis to support a higher pay award for council staff – more than half the amount Cosla asked for in order to make a 5% offer – local government has only offered a 3.5% increase, which has now been rejected by the workforce.

“As the employers, these pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities and unions – the Scottish Government has no formal role. We urge Cosla to urgently reconsider its position and match the Scottish Government’s additional £140 million that would be required to increase the pay offer to 5%.

“The Scottish Government must balance a fixed budget with very significant competing demands as a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis and the inaction of the UK Government.

“The main tax levers are set for the whole year and cannot be changed. With no power to borrow for this spend, the extra £140 million has got to come from somewhere else within the budget and no more funding can be offered.”

The UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been approached for comment.