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Union warns of ‘winter of unrest’ as Scottish council workers vote on industrial action

Scottish council strike
Unite will ask members whether they want to take action

Scottish council workers are to decide whether to take industrial action after they rejected the latest pay offer from local authorities.

Trade union Unite says 83% of its members have turned down the offer from local authority umbrella body Cosla.

Of those who voted, 74% say they would be willing to take industrial action.

It comes after a similar move was announced by Unison, which also represents council workers.

Unite has warned of an “autumn and winter of industrial unrest” and has asked Cosla and the Scottish Government to get back round the table.

Unite says workers will ‘not longer tolerate’ poor pay

Wendy Dunsmore, industrial officer, says the pay offer currently on the table equates to about 19p extra per day for those earning £25,000 a year.

She said: “Let’s remember that more than half of all local government workers earn less than this figure with the majority of those being predominantly women.

“Many of our members have also had to apply for top-ups from the state to keep them above the breadline.

“Unite’s local government workers will no longer tolerate being treated as the poor relation in our public services.

“Cosla and the Scottish Government should be ashamed that they are forcing local government workers into taking industrial action.

“Both have a duty to get back round the negotiating table with a fair offer. If they do not then an autumn and winter of industrial unrest awaits.”

Unite says it will target the ballot at specific groups of workers including school cleaners, janitors and caterers along with fleet maintenance, waste and refuse workers across each local authority.

If strike action is supported, it is expected to run from late October 2021 to January 2022.

Calls for increased funding unanswered

It comes after the union, alongside GMB and Unison, wrote to the Scottish Government condemning the decision not to provide additional funding to Cosla in order to improve the current pay offer.

If workers back the strike action, it would likely affect the delivery of council services across the north and north-east.

A Cosla spokesperson said: “We appreciate everything that local government workers have been doing, and continue to do, to support people and communities during the pandemic and as we begin to recover.

“We continue with ongoing constructive negotiations.”

The value of our overall Covid-19 support package for councils now totals more than £1.5 billion.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Despite the pandemic exerting unprecedented pressures on our budget, the 2021-22 local government finance settlement of £11.7 billion includes an additional £375.6 million, or 3.5%, for day-to-day revenue spending.

“In addition, the value of our overall Covid-19 support package for councils now totals more than £1.5 billion.”

They added that pay negotiations are a matter for Cosla.

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