School cleaning and catering staff and waste workers are among council employees being balloted for strike action in a row over pay.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said council workers are the “backbone of our communities” as the union launched the ballot on Wednesday.
The union said it is seeking to take targeted strike action, which means select groups of workers will be balloted.
These include members working in school cleaning, catering and janitorial roles, as well as those employed in waste and recycling services.
Unison is calling for local government employees to receive the “fair and proper pay rise they deserve”.
McAnea said: “Council workers have gone above and beyond to keep services and schools running throughout the pandemic. They went to work so others could stay at home.
“These workers, mostly women, are among the lowest paid in the country and have seen their pay drop substantially in recent years.
“We’ve always known the value and importance of these workers, but it’s taken a pandemic for politicians to realise council staff are the backbone of our communities.
“Now the warm words must be backed with action to ensure the local government employees receive the fair and proper pay rise they deserve.”
Unison said the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), the umbrella body representing council employers, had previously offered staff earning less than £25,000 a flat rate rise of £800.
Last month Cosla came back with a revised offer of £850.
Unison said the current offer does little to address low pay and does not recognise workers’ “extraordinary efforts” during the pandemic.
Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, said: “We’ve all relied on council staff to keep our communities clean and safe, protect the most vulnerable and to work in our schools throughout successive lockdowns to allow others to work.
“Yet we’re now 18 months into the global pandemic and they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all.
“Scotland’s councils have suffered a decade of cuts and jobs losses, and staff have received year-on-year pay cuts, with 55% of local government workers now earning less than £25k a year.
“The current offer from Cosla is simply not good enough – our council staff are worth more.”
The union is holding a pay rally which will be live-streamed on Unison Scotland’s Facebook page from 6pm on Wednesday.
The ballot will run until September 22.
Cosla has been asked for comment.