'Waste will pile and schools will close': Council staff vote to strike

Refuse workers, cleaners and thousands of others rejected a 2% rise from Cosla.

Thousands of council workers vote to strike over ‘insulting’ pay offer STV News

Thousands of Scottish council workers have voted to take strike action over a “paltry” 2% pay offer.

At the beginning of summer, unions issued ballots to staff in each local authority on potential industrial action after they turned down the rise.

On Tuesday, Unison announced a majority of members in a number of council areas had responded in favour of striking in the face of the biggest cost of living crisis in forty years.

Unions warned that “waste will pile and schools will close” unless council workers were offered a better deal.

Pay settlements for council workers – excluding teachers – are determined by Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC).

Workers at City of Glasgow, Orkney Islands, Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Inverclyde councils all met the threshold for industrial action.

However, Unison said its members in all local councils “overwhelmingly” backed walkouts.

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Johanna Baxter, the union’s head of local government said: “Cosla leaders meet on Friday and must put an improved offer on the table if we are to avoid large-scale disruption to council services across Scotland. 

“Council workers south of the border yesterday were offered a flat rate uplift of £1,925, which for those on the lowest pay equates to a 10.5% increase. 

“You have to wonder why council workers north of the border have only been offered a measly 2% increase when the cost of living continues to spiral.

“Unison have been calling for a flat rate payment to help those on lower incomes. Most council workers earn less than £25k per year. It is clear now that local government workers have had enough and are prepared to strike in the coming weeks unless we see a sensible offer, from Cosla, on the table on Friday.

He added: “This is the largest strike ballot by local government workers in over a decade and the first-time workers across Scotland have voted to take strike action in these numbers. It really shouldn’t take this for them to receive the recognition, respect and reward that they deserve.”

GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Unless Ministers and COSLA make a significantly improved pay offer for the consultation of our members then strike action is happening across these vital services.

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“The 2 per cent that’s already been massively rejected is a shameful proposal, it’s worth less than a tenner a week extra for those earning £25,000 or under, and it will turn a cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophe for many workers and their families.

“Two years ago, these workers were applauded on the doorstep by political leaders, but now they are being told to suffer massive real terms pay cuts ahead of a brutal winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and energy bills over £3,000.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “This strike action is deeply concerning – particularly the threat of school closures at the start of the new term. Scotland’s schoolchildren have suffered enough during the pandemic, without their education being further hit.

“Amid a global cost-of-living crisis, it’s understandable that workers are looking for fair and significant pay rises.

“But the root cause of this problem is the SNP Government – because they have systematically underfunded Scotland’s local authorities for years, making it impossible for councils to meet wage demands.

“This year alone, funding to local authorities was cut by £251m in real terms according to COSLA.

“Nicola Sturgeon must intervene immediately to prevent these catastrophic strikes going ahead.”