UNISON, Scotland’s largest union, has today warned that strikes will see school closures and waste piling up on the streets
UNISON has demanded a meeting with, and immediate action from, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes over the local government pay dispute.
Last week the union served notice to 31 Scottish local authorities and Tayside Contracts. The union is taking targeted strike action, which means select groups of workers will be balloted. These groups include those working in schools and nurseries as well in waste and recycling services.
The ballots will open from 10 June and close on 26 July. If the ballots for industrial action are successful then strike action could begin in August, disrupting the beginning of the new school term.
In a letter to both Scottish Government ministers, UNISON – a long with the joint trade unions – is warning that if the pay dispute is not swiftly resolved then strike action will “close schools across the country and see waste piling up on the streets.”
COSLA, the umbrella body representing council employers, has offered staff a 2% increase, but the union points out with inflation at a 40-year high and topping 11%, this represents a real-terms pay cut.
UNISON’s consultative ballot in April revealed almost nine in ten workers are in favour of taking action, with 89.8% voting in favour of taking industrial action up to and including strike action.
Councils can avoid months of disruption to schools, and waste and recycling services, by improving the offer and giving workers the proper pay rise they deserve, UNISON says.
UNISON head of local government Johanna Baxter said: “People seem to have forgotten who kept our country going during the past few years – these workers are the ones who kept childcare hubs open so other key workers could get to work, they cared for our most vulnerable and buried our dead. They went gone above and beyond in service to our communities and deserve to be paid fairly.
“With over half of local government workers earning below £25k each year, low pay remains a significant issue that is seeing councils struggling to recruit into key service areas. As everyday living costs continue to rise, these workers are struggling financially to make ends meet.
“Not only do these dedicated local government workers deserve way better than a below-inflation pay offer, but there’s a service requirement to provide one if councils are to recruit and retain staff in key service areas.”
Chair of UNISON Scotland’s local government committee Mark Ferguson said: “It’s no wonder our local government workers feel undervalued. After years of declining pay and cuts to local government budgets, it’s time for COSLA and the Scottish Government to get round the table to ensure sufficient funding is available to give our local government workers the fair and decent pay rise they deserve.”
Full details are on the UNISON Scotland website