Council workers to strike as 'paltry' 3.5% pay increase turned down

Waste and recycling workers are set to strike this month and could be followed by other council services after unions knocked back the latest pay deal.

Local council strikes set to go ahead as unions blanket reject ‘nowhere near good enough’ pay deal GMB

Unions have blanket rejected a “derisory” Scottish Government pay deal for public sector workers, giving the go-ahead for waves of strike action over the coming months.

Members of the GMB, Unite and UNISON organisations have all voted against a revised wage increase offer of 3.5% tabled by COSLA following a meeting last week.

Unions branded the proposed rise “nowhere near good enough” amid the cost of living crisis and will now move for industrial action.

Waste workers in Edinburgh will be joined by others in more than 20 local authorities when they walkout on Thursday this week on day one of 12 straight days of strikes.

Other parts of the council sector could soon follow suit, with ballots under way following the offer on Friday.

It comes as inflation is predicted to rise as high as 11.8% later this year – around three and a half times the current offered wage uplift.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser, warned strikes across council services were now “inevitable”.

He added: “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.”

John Swinney, deputising as finance secretary while Kate Forbes is on maternity leave, announced an extra £140m for local authorities to help with the wage bill before COSLA made their latest offer last week.

He previously said no further money would be coming from St Andrew’s House, arguing that local government had a “fair financial settlement from the Scottish Government.”

COSLA said further funding was needed to provide the wage rise requested by unions, however Unite’s regional officer, Wendy Dunsmore, criticised the two parties for putting “petty” arguments before the negotiations with workers.

“We have the pathetic spectacle of COSLA and the Scottish Government doing a Hokey Cokey dance as they blame each other for the unacceptable pay offer,” she said.

“The fact is both of them are equally to blame. Our members are fed-up with this politicking because all they want is an offer put on the table which reflects their hard work, and helps them deal with the cost of living crisis hurting families across Scotland.”

COSLA’s latest offer promised a £3,000 flat rate increase to all spinal column points – the grades at which local government workers are paid – and an increase in the Scottish Local Government Living Wage (SLGLW) hourly rate to £9.98.

Waste and recycling workers are currently the only council services confirmed to be undertaking strike action, but others, including teachers and other school staff, could also walk out later in the year.

UNISON regional organiser, Johanna Baxter, 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 logger heads 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.”

COSLA has been contacted for comment.

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