Thousands of council staff could strike over ‘tenner a week’ pay offer

Thousands of council workers could lead to a summer of crippling strikes over a “tenner a week” pay offer.

The GMB trade union will alert council bosses today of their intention to ballot school, early years and waste and cleansing service members.

The move, which involves nearly 10,000 workers, is in response to council umbrella group COSLA’s 2 per cent pay offer.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser, warned the offer amounts to a real-terms pay cut for frontline workers while disproportionately giving the biggest rises to higher earners.

He said: “Tens of thousands of the lowest paid staff in local government will go from the frontline of public service delivery to below the breadline unless their pay confronts soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills.

“But instead of recognizing the scale of the challenge and rising to meet it, political leaders are sleeping at the wheel and blaming each other for their inability to address it – it’s a far cry from their doorstep applause every Thursday night only two years ago.

“Let’s be clear. A pay rise of just 2 per cent for the workers earning under £25,000 a year is worth no more than a tenner a week. It will turn a crisis into a catastrophe for many working families and there is no trade union worth its salt that would leave that unchallenged.

“Unless Cosla comes back to the negotiating table with a vastly improved offer that reflects the fact our members are working in the biggest cost-of-living crisis in 40 years, then industrial action looks inevitable”.

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ScotRail last week increased their pay offer to train drivers from 2.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent and now other unions are stepping up their calls for revised deals.

COSLA is in favor of a bigger rise for the workforce, but the body believes the cash has to be provided by the SNP/Green Government.

At a meeting of COSLA last week, council leaders backed a Labor amendment which put the ball into the court of the Scottish Government.

It stated: “Leaders further note the current rate of inflation at over 9 per cent, the enhanced pay offer of 4.2 per cent made to rail workers and the likelihood of industrial action by Local Government Trade Unions in the absence of a significantly increased pay offer. .

“Leaders believe that Council workers deserve a significant pay increase and that this should be funded by the Scottish Government.

COSLA agreed to write “urgently” to the First Minister to demand “additional funding” to make an enhanced pay offer.

Labor MSP Mark Griffin said: “The SNP’s chronic underfunding of local government has put our vital services at risk and has left frontline workers to pick up the pieces.

“The SNP cuts to council budget have taken Tory austerity and multiplied it.

“The result is strained essential services and a failure to value the workforce, who stepped up across Scotland throughout the pandemic and beyond and are now bearing the brunt of a cost of living crisis.

“These workers have gone above and beyond – the Scottish Government should fund a pay offer which reflects that.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is not involved in local government pay negotiations. Pay settlements for council workers – excluding teachers – are a matter for COSLA and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC).

“The Scottish Government is not a member of the SJC and council pay is therefore not a matter it can directly intervene in. It is for trade union colleagues to reach a negotiated settlement with COSLA.

“We are treating councils fairly and providing a real terms increase of 6.3 per cent to local authority budgets this year.

“This comes against a cut to the Scottish Government’s overall budget of 5.2 per cent in real terms, due primarily to UK Government funding reductions.

“We have not received the letter from COSLA but will consider it in full once received.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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