Time running out to avert school strike action, union warns

GMB Scotland has rejected the latest pay offer put to unions on Wednesday by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Time running out to avert school strike action, union warns iStock

Unions have warned time is running out to avert strike action by school support staff after rejecting the latest “insulting” pay offer from local government employers.

GMB Scotland has rejected the latest pay offer put to unions on Wednesday by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) that it said would provide at least a £1,929 increase in annual salary for workers by January 1, 2024.

But the offer has been dismissed as “far too little, far too late” by the GMB.

The union, which represents more than 21,000 workers across Scotland’s 32 councils, said strikes involving cleaning, janitorial, catering and pupil support will now go ahead without a revised offer and urged ministers to intervene.

Scotland’s largest public sector union, Unison, also rejected the pay deal which it claimed was an increase of just £0.01 per hour or 0.17% on the previous offer.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser in public services, said: “The latest offer is no significant improvement on the previous offer that was overwhelmingly rejected.

“Strike action is not something our members ever take lightly, but after a long, frustrating process, they have been left with no choice.

“This offer, like the previous offer, does not come close to maintaining the value of their wages as prices rise. It is far too little and far too late.

“Why should local authority workers in Scotland be offered less than in England? Why should they be asked to accept the unacceptable?

“If Cosla does not have the resource or the will to properly protect the wages of some of the country’s most important workers, then the Scottish Government needs to intervene and intervene urgently.”

Strike action is still poised to go ahead from September 26-28.

Unison Scotland head of local government Johanna Baxter said: “It is deeply disappointing that it has taken Cosla five months since our members rejected the initial offer to present such insignificant changes.

“We have made very clear that Cosla must put forward a significantly improved offer to avert mass school strikes. Members of our local government committee this morning described this offer as insulting.”

Cosla said the pay offer currently on the table will cost councils just under half a billion pounds.

Its resource spokeswoman, Katie Hagmann, said the offer was “strong”, and added: “I am doubly disappointed today, firstly with the rejection itself, but perhaps more importantly with the fact that they did not take the revised offer to their membership for consideration.

“We have continued to conduct these negotiations in good faith and kept communication channels open at all times.

“We absolutely value all our local government workforce and throughout these negotiations council leaders have reiterated the value we place on the workforce and the work that they do.

“That is why we enhanced an already strong offer yesterday, with council leaders going to the absolute limits of what local government can afford. The simple fact of the matter is that we have no more money available for pay without real cuts to jobs and services.

“It must be remembered that we are talking about a pay package worth over £440 million, specifically targeted at the lower end of our workforce. A pay package which not only compares well to other sectors but recognises the cost-of-living pressures on our workforce and which would mean the lowest paid would see a 21% increase in their pay over a two-year period.

“I am disappointed with today’s rejection. However, we will continue to engage as positively as we can with the trade onions as strike action is in nobody’s interests.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions.

“The Scottish Government and Cosla have committed to respect this negotiating arrangement as part of the Verity House Agreement.

“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government has provided a further £155 million in 2023-24 to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, which has been taken into account in the pay offer made by Cosla.

“We continue our engagement with Cosla on how staff and services are supported this year and next.”

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