Tens of thousands of council workers across Scotland are set to vote on strike action which could see schools forced to close when pupils return after the summer holidays.
On Friday, 25,000 UNISON union members from schools, nurseries, and waste and recycling centres will be asked to back industrial action in a bid to raise a “miserly” 2% pay offer.
Johanna Baxter, Unison’s head of local government in Scotland, said the proposed deal amounted to a real-terms pay cut and came “on the back of the Scottish Government announcing cuts to public services that Margaret Thatcher would be proud of”.
The union said it had urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to meet them to discuss funding for local authorities to improve the pay offer, but their request was turned down.
Ms Baxter said: “The fact they will not sit down with Cosla and the trade unions to try and find a solution is a kick in the teeth to all local government workers.
“They have forgotten already who was educating our children, cleaning our communities, caring for our vulnerable and burying our dead throughout the pandemic. Local government workers keep society running.”
The ballot will take seven weeks and will close on July 26 and if successful, workers intend to shut schools across Scotland when children return after the summer holidays.
Unison wrote to the Scottish Government on June 1 but on Thursday Forbes told it, Unite and GMB that while her government worked “hard to maintain good relations” it “would not be appropriate to interfere in these negotiations, given their devolved nature” and was down to the union to negotiate with Cosla.
“As such, I have respectfully declined the tripartite meeting being proposed by Cosla. The Scottish Government has never had a seat in the local government pay negotiations,” Forbes said.
A Cosla spokesman said: “Cosla values the essential roles that all local government workers carry out on a daily basis.
“We remain in active discussions with our Trade Union partners.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said it was “not involved in local government pay negotiations”.
“Pay settlements for council workers – excluding teachers – are a matter for Cosla and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC),” the spokesman said.
“As it is not a member of the SJC, the Scottish Government cannot intervene in pay negotiations, which are for the trade unions to negotiate with Cosla.
“Council staff play a crucial role in our communities as we rebuild the economy following the pandemic. We would encourage the parties to maintain dialogue and stay at the table to reach agreement.”