Nursery workers facing pay cuts of up to £6,000 have protested outside council offices, warning that some fear losing their homes.
Parents joined nursery staff and union members in the protest against the plans, which involve some 300 workers at North Lanarkshire nurseries facing a 30% pay cut unless they retrain or apply for a leadership role.
Staff members have been told they will be moved down two pay grades, from NLC9 to NLC7, as part of North Lanarkshire Council’s plan to reduce a £3m funding gap.
One nursery worker taking part in the protest outside the council’s headquarters at Motherwell Civic Centre on Thursday said: “This is going to affect our living arrangements. It’s going to affect hundreds of people.
“That money we’re going to lose is some people’s heating payments and some people’s mortgage payments.”
Unison North Lanarkshire branch secretary Marie Quigley said: “Early years workers will be forced into roles two grades lower than they are currently on, which means a £6,000 pay cut, and all of this is a result of cuts for local government funding from Holyrood.
“It’s really an awful set of affairs to cut nursery provisions. These workers are really dedicated to the job.”
She said the proposals are a “kick in the teeth”, particularly given Scotland’s teachers recently secured an improved pay offer from the Scottish Government and council umbrella body Cosla of a 12.3% increase by April 2023, rising to 14% by 2024, following months of strike action.
Ms Quigley said: “These workers work as hard as anyone else and the Scottish Government also comes up with money when it suits them.
“Local council workers and those across the country still haven’t had a pay offer from their employer yet, so I think the message we would send to the government and Cosla is that they need to invest in the people that provide these essential services to their communities.”
Talks between the union and the council continue over the proposals.
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “It was agreed at a recent meeting of the council to align resources to the previously agreed staffing model which was adopted in 2019 to support the delivery of 1,140 hours (of funded early learning and childcare). The NLC9 early learning practitioner posts are not part of this agreed structure.
“All staff are highly valued and we have been working closely with staff and the trade unions at engagement sessions over the last few weeks to bring forward plans to support all staff directly within this specific group and explore other potential opportunities within the service for them.”
The Scottish Government said it is “extremely grateful” to all childcare practitioners and young children’s learning is a “vital first stage in our education system”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “The Scottish Government fully funds councils to deliver 1,140 hours a year of high quality ELC to all eligible children, with around £1bn investment each year.
“It is for councils to make decisions about funding and workforce to meet their statutory duties on the provision of funded ELC services in their area.
“We understand the council are working with staff and trade unions to find solutions for everyone affected, and would encourage all parties to continue working together to find a way forward.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country