Two unions pull threat of school strikes after vote to accept pay deal

Unite and GMB Scotland members have each voted to accept the pay offer from council body COSLA while Unison members have overwhelmingly rejected the deal.

Unite and GMB unions pull threat of school strikes after vote to accept pay deal GMB Scotland

Council staff with two leading trade unions have voted to accept a revised pay deal, but have warned cuts to frontline services “will not be tolerated”.

Both Unite and GMB have lifted their threat of industrial action and voted to accept a pay deal from COSLA which amounts to a minimum increase of just over £2,000 for those on the local government living wage.

A total of 71.38% of Unite’s members in a consultative ballot voted to accept the offer made by COSLA on September 21.

Scheduled strikes in schools and early learning centres had been suspended by both unions while members voted on the proposed offer.

However, Unison, the largest trade union for council workers, proceeded with strike action last month and, on Monday, announced further strikes would be on the cards after members voted by 89.9% to reject the COSLA offer.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members have voted to accept the revised pay offer. A minimum increase of over £2,000 for the lowest paid will be a welcome boost to the pay packets of our members during this ongoing cost of living crisis.

“Unite’s members should be congratulated for the strong stance they have taken to deliver better jobs, pay and conditions across all Scottish councils.”

The revised offer represents a minimum increase of £2,006 for those on the Scottish local government living wage, and a minimum of £1,929 for all those above that rate from April 1 this year based on a 37-hour week.

The living wage of £10.85 rises to £11.89 an hour under the offer, which is the equivalent to a 9.6% increase.

In addition, the offer commits council leaders to establish an advisory group comprising of COSLA officials and unions to establish a ‘route map’ to achieving a minimum £15 per hour in local government – a key trade union objective.

Graham McNab, Unite’s lead negotiator for local government, added: “Our members were prepared to take strike action if necessary to achieve this outcome. Let’s be clear that the revised offer by COSLA was only put on the table because of this threat.

“The revised offer should have been put on the table months ago. Instead, we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of COSLA and the Scottish Government creating a bigger mess at each stage of this process.   

“Unite will also not tolerate any threats of cuts to services in order to fund this pay offer. Decent pay rises should not come at the expense of vital services being cut in other areas.”

Additionally, GMB Scotland members in local government have also voted to accept the offer and lifted their threat of industrial action.

A total of 62% of members working in councils supported the deal, which offers a a minimum increase of £1.04 per hour for the lowest paid council workers, a rise of 9.6%, and a minimum increase of £1 per hour for their colleagues.

Announcing the result of the GMB ballot, Keir Greenaway, the union’s senior organiser in public services, said: “Our members have now backed this offer which will deliver a fair pay rise for all council workers, but particularly those on the lowest salaries.

“It is not a perfect offer but is a good one and it was right our members, who were ready to strike in support of fair pay, were given the chance to vote on it.

“We have been assured no council services or jobs will be cut to fund this pay offer and will continue to ensure those assurances are kept.”

However, Greenaway also said that negotiating process has been too long and had fuelled “uncertainty and mistrust”.

He continued: “That it took the threat of strike action for COSLA to make an offer which could and should have been on the table months ago is frustrating and regrettable.”

“Pay negotiations do not have to be like this.

“Instead of getting a fair pay offer and the money in their banks, our members have been asked to endure months of inaction, needless delay, and all the melodrama of deadlines and last-minute offers.

“The Scottish Government and COSLA need to sit down with the unions to find a better way of negotiating and ensuring these discussions are done with a sense of urgency and fairness that has been absolutely lacking in recent months.”

Unison announced on Monday that there will be rolling strike action in schools across Scotland after members voted overwhelmingly to reject COSLA’s pay offer, with nine in ten workers (89.92 %) voting against the deal in a consultative ballot that saw a turnout of 52.27%.

Dates are yet to be announced but are expected to result in school closures in November and December.

COSLA described the ballot result from Unison as “very disappointing”.

Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA resources spokesperson, said: “We have listened to our trade unions, met all their asks and worked with Scottish Government to put an incredibly strong half a billion pound pay package on the table.”

Welcoming the response from Unite and GMB, Cllr Hagmann said: “I am delighted with today’s response from members of both the GMB and Unite trade unions in voting to accept the strong offer COSLA has on the table.  Their union negotiators also deserve a great deal of credit for the pragmatic approach they took in recommending acceptance to their respective memberships.  

“It is pleasing that these two trade unions see the value Scotland’s council leaders place on our workforce.”

She added: “This is a realistic response from the two trade unions who have recognised that not only have we as employers targeted those workers on the lowest pay as they requested, but they have also recognised that as employers we have gone as far as we can go without impacting service and jobs. 

“These are not empty words – we have put our very best and final offer to the Unions – councils have been more than fair in this strong offer and the GMB and Unite unions have done well in accepting it without the need to take industrial action.

“Both GMB and Unite have recognised the reality of where we are at this time, on behalf of their memberships, and that is a positive outcome for all.”

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