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‘Council staff are worth more’ says UNISON as it prepares to ballot members on strike action

UNISON Scotland has informed employers that it will be conducting a formal ballot of its members in our dispute over pay.

COSLA, the umbrella body representing council employers, had previously offered staff earning less than £25,000 a flat rate rise of £800. Last week COSLA came back with a revised offer of £850 – working out at a measly 97p per week for the lowest paid staff.

UNISON plans to take targeted strike action, which means select groups of workers will be balloted. These include our members working in school cleaning, school catering, school janitorial as well as those working in waste and recycling services. If you are one of these members, please know that you will be fully supported in taking this action on behalf of the whole membership. This strategy will be replicated across the whole of Scotland.

Inez Teece
Inez Kirk

Inez Kirk, branch secretary and vice-chair of UNISON’s Scottish local government committee said, “The Scottish Government and COSLA may not think that our members are worth more, however we, the biggest trade union, believe that you have all gone above and beyond your contract of employment by working differently and helping to save many lives in our communities.”

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

Kate Ramsden, branch co-chair said, “Our union believes that council staff, who have kept services and schools running throughout the pandemic deserve a proper pay rise. This latest pay offer falls far short of our pay claim and does little to address low pay which has become endemic following a decade of austerity.

“Councils have suffered a decade of cuts and jobs losses ast the same time as demand has increased, and staff have received year-on-year pay cuts. It has meant delivering services has become increasingly stressful for the workforce.”

Pressure is mounting on both COSLA leaders and the Scottish Government to find an urgent resolution to this issue. COSLA leaders are meeting again on Friday 27 August.

Kate added, “The last 18 months have taken an enormous toll on council staff who have been working flat out for no reward. Their courage and sacrifices need to be rewarded, yet the employers are failing to recognise their efforts.

“These workers, mostly women, are amongst the lowest paid in the country and have seen their pay drop substantially in recent years. The pay offer falls far short of their colleagues in the NHS and local government workers are left feeling exhausted and undervalued. Scotland’s council workers deserve fair pay.”

Johanna Baxter, Head of UNISON Scotland Local Government

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, added, “We’ve all relied on council staff to keep our communities clean and safe, protect the most vulnerable and to work in our schools throughout successive lockdowns to allow others to work.

“Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care. Yet to date they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough – our council staff are worth more.”