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School strikes will go ahead while UNISON consults members

School strikes by UNISON members across Scotland are going ahead on 26th, 27th, and 28th September 2023.

UNISON Scotland’s local government committee met on 21 September to discuss the detail of a belated, revised offer from COSLA.

The union’s local government committee agreed that strikes will continue, and they will consult local government members on COSLA’s offer and recommend they reject it. The union say that COSLA’s offer is too little, too late and remains a long way from what is needed.

Both GMB and Unite have taken the decision to suspend their strike action and put the latest offer to their members in a consultative ballot (and in Unite’s case with a recommendation to accept.)

However, each trade union has its own democratic procedures and each should be respected.  Our decision on the latest offer was taken by our Local Government committee which is made of local government workers, elected by their colleagues to represent them, from across local authorities of every size across Scotland and after careful consideration of the impact of the offer and our strike action.

Whilst the revised offer contains some progress it is limited to a small section of the workforce.  It contains very little movement for the majority.  As by far the largest trade union in local government UNISON has members in every occupation and at every salary level – we represent all of them and will fight for all of them.

A key part of our claim, which was not addressed by COSLA in their offer, was achieving a commitment to eradicate low pay in local government by agreeing a timeframe for implementing a minimum underpinning rate of pay of £15 per hour.  This is a key reason why we remain in dispute.

COSLA’s own press release confirmed that no new money had been provided to fund this offer and they made it very clear to us that this would therefore mean taking money from elsewhere in local authority budgets, resulting in further cuts jobs and services – we will not trade pay with jobs.  We are fighting for the long-term financial stability of local government that will protect BOTH pay and jobs.

The vast majority of local government staff are being offered 5.5% which is only 0.5% more than COSLA’s original offer, which was made almost 6 months ago and rejected by UNISON members.

The commitment to pay the lowest paid workers £15 per hour is far too vague and because no new money has been found to fund the small improvements to the offer it will inevitably lead to more cuts to jobs and services.

UNISON Scotland’s local government committee, which is made up of representatives from local government branches across Scotland, voted unanimously to continue with strikes and to recommend rejection to UNISON members in a consultative ballot.

The union report the committee are angry that for the second year running it had taken COSLA almost 6 months to put forward a revised offer, only doing so on the eve of school closures.

UNISON has written to COSLA to say:
• For members who earn above the Scottish Local Government Living Wage this offer differs from your original offer by only 0.5% in-year.
• The offer remains below the rate of inflation meaning that local government workers are again being asked to take a real-terms pay cut which they can ill-afford during a cost of living crises.
• The commitment to deliver a minimum underpinning rate of pay of £15per hour for the local government workforce remains vague and not within a timescale that we can agree.
• COSLA’s own press release announcing this revised offer that “no new money has been identified for this offer”. When we spoke to you yesterday you made clear that in the absence of additional financial support from the Scottish Government any improvement to the offer would result in further cuts to our members jobs and the services they provide.

UNISON Scotland head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: “This revised offer is far too little, too late. Strikes will therefore proceed next week. We cannot agree to a pay offer that will result in further cuts to our members jobs and the services they provide.

It has taken COSLA 6 months to send us a revised pay offer which, for the vast majority of staff is an increase of only 0.5% in-year. These are not well-paid staff, they are on less than the Scottish average wage and it is simply not acceptable.

Far from learning the lessons of last year’s dispute the situation has been worse this year, caused further delay local government workers’ pay during a cost-of-living crises and created uncertainty for parents. This is no way to conduct industrial relations.”

Chair of UNISON Scotland’s of local government committee, Mark Ferguson said: “The offer is still below the rate of inflation meaning that local government workers are, once again, being asked to take a real-terms pay cut which they can ill-afford during a cost of living crises.

Our members have been left waiting for an improved pay offer for months after their pay uplift was due, and right up until the eve of mass school closures, whilst COSLA and the Scottish Government have prevaricated over who will find the additional money needed to fund any improved offer and where they money will come from.”