Scottish school strikes suspended as union considers new deal

Unison has paused planned walkouts in schools across Scotland next week while it considers a new offer.

Unison Scottish school strikes suspended as members consider new deal iStock

Strike action planned for schools across Scotland amid a pay dispute have been suspended after a new deal was tabled.

COSLA said additional funding has been found to meet the “extra demands” of Unison and urged bosses to put the deal to its members.

The local government body said that after “intensive talks” with the Scottish Government, a way had been found to underwrite some “limited one-off funding” to improve the deal.

In a statement, it said: “This is the final £17.2m to get a package worth more than half a billion over the line, which will increase the wages of our lowest paid employees by £2,000 a year, for the second year in succession, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.”

Support staff walked out in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde on Wednesday, which followed three days of national strike action which shut schools in September.

However, action planned for South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Fife on November 8 and November 15 has now been paused while members of the union assess the deal.

Unison rejected a pay deal from local council body COSLA that was accepted by other unions, including Unite and GMB, last month.

COSLA said the additional funding that can now be put into the offer will allow for all elements of the pay deal to be backdated.

It stressed: “Leaders recognise the importance of getting money into the pockets of our workforce as early as possible, and today’s decisions will hopefully make that possible.

“The priority of leaders today is ensuring that nobody is left out of pocket ahead of the winter period, especially given the ongoing pressures of the cost-of-living crisis.”

The deal will now be put to members in a ballot running “for the next few weeks”.

The union’s head of local government, Joanna Baxter, said: “Over the past few months, from the employers original offer to today, the action of Unison members has secured more than an additional £100m into the pockets of local government workers. This includes an additional £17.2m secured in the last couple of weeks.   

“The improvements put forward today help address low pay and support those in the squeezed middle.  The commitment to delivering a minimum rate of pay of £15 per hour for all local government workers by April 2026 will go a long way to tackling low pay across the sector.

“Backdating the full offer to April this year will see an improvement for four in ten local government workers.

“It was Unison members who stood on picket lines to fight for a better deal.  It was Unison negotiators who brokered this deal.  And it will be Unison members who determine whether it gets accepted.” 

GMB Scotland welcomed the pay rise for council workers announced on Friday but warned the money must be paid urgently.

The union suspended strike action to allow members to vote on the offer from Cosla, representing Scotland’s councils.

Half of local authority workers earn less than £25,000 and GMB Scotland had successfully called for the offer to be weighted towards the lowest paid and backdated to April.

The deal announced on Friday means higher earners will now also have the rise fully backdated, the union said.

Keir Greenaway, the union’s senior organiser in public services, said it was wrong the new money added to the offer by COSLA today will not mean any more for the lowest paid.

He said: “It is welcome that our members will get the offer they voted for but this process has dragged on far too long.

“Our members accepted an offer that prioritised the lowest paid and should not have to wait any longer to receive their money. It must be with them before Christmas.

“We also welcome a renewed commitment to deliver a minimum wage of £15 an hour but ambitions and aspirations don’t pay bills.

“There is no reason to celebrate until our members get that wage instead of being promised it.

“Meanwhile, in the here and now, not one penny of all the extra millions suddenly found to add to this offer will go to workers earning less than £25,000. That does not seem right or fair.”

More to follow.

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