Schools and nurseries face disruption as staff vote on strike action

More than 8,000 council staff will be asked if they are willing to take industrial action.

GMB Scotland School and nursery staff balloted on strike action next term STV News

Schools and nurseries could see disruption when pupils return after the summer holidays as staff are being balloted on whether to strike.

More than 8,000 council staff will be asked if they are willing to take industrial action.

It is the latest escalation in a long-running dispute with Cosla, the umbrella body that represents Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

GMB Scotland say Cosla has refused to improve a rejected pay offer. The union also said the offer was far below inflation and less than last year despite the cost-of-living crisis worsening.

Other trade unions will also ballot their council members on industrial action.

Cleaning, janitorial, catering and pupil support services are all set to be involved in the upcoming action, which could see schools disrupted or even closed.

Cosla were formally told of the ballot on Friday.

The vote will begin on 12 June and run until the end of July with any industrial action supported by GMB members, working in schools and nurseries but excluding teachers, taking place in the new term.

The ballot comes after 94% of GMB Scotland members rejected the councils’ offer of 5.5%.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, said: “Given Cosla is unwilling or unable to offer a fair pay rise or ask ministers to intervene, we have been left with no choice but to ask our members if they are willing to take industrial action in support of our claim.

“They are suffering through an unprecedented cost of living crisis but have been offered a rise that is less than last year, despite the cost of living being even higher, and less than is being offered to council workers in England and Wales.

“It is absolutely no surprise workers, who are doing some of the most important jobs in Scotland, are unwilling to accept what is effectively a pay cut. Sadly, it is equally unsurprising that Cosla is unwilling to revise its offer or ask for government support.

“That intransigence means we have no option but to ballot our members on industrial action.”

The Scottish Government intervened in last year’s pay dispute to bring an end to widespread industrial action by unions, which saw the lowest-paid council workers given a pay rise of about 10%.

But GMB said the 5.5% offer is “clearly unacceptable” at a time when food prices are rising by almost 20%.

A Cosla spokesperson said: “The reality of the situation is that as employers, council leaders have made a strong offer to the workforce. 

“A strong offer which clearly illustrates the value councils place on their workforce, and it compares well to other sectors. It recognises the cost-of-living pressures on our workforce and critically, it seeks to protect jobs and services.

“While the offer value in year is 5.5%, the average uplift on salaries going into the next financial year is 7%. Those on the Scottish Local Government Living Wage would get 9.12% and those at higher grades, where councils are experiencing severe recruitment challenges, would see 6.05%.

“It is an offer which recognises both the vital role of the people who deliver our essential services across councils every day and the value that we, as employers, place on them.  

“Crucially, it also raises the Scottish Local Government Living Wage by 99p to £11.84 per hour and sets out a commitment to work with our trade unions to develop a road map to £15 per hour in a way that protects our workforce and services we deliver.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions – the Scottish Government has no formal role.

“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government announced a further £100m as part of this year’s budget for councils to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers.

“The Scottish Government urges all the parties involved to work together constructively and reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”

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