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Council strikes explained: Why are workers walking out?

Aberdeenshire and Moray will be hit by council strikes next month.

Next month’s council strikes will see workers walk out after a row over pay left them “at breaking point”.

Workers at 17 local authorities, including Aberdeenshire and Moray, will take industrial action from November 8-12.

They have also warned the strikes could “escalate” if their demands are not met, with senior union officials predicting “industrial unrest”.

We explain how it got to this stage and what it means.

Why are council strikes happening?

Trade unions have been negotiating with Cosla, the representative body for all 32 councils, for nearly a year.

Around 55% of council workers are on under £25,000 per year, and the lowest-paid staff earn less than £10 per hour.

Staff have gone “above and beyond” during the pandemic, according to the unions.

They want them to be rewarded on a par with sectors such as health, where workers received cash bonuses.

Local authorities were also not permitted to furlough staff as the scheme was only open to private firms.

Union members rejected an offer from Cosla earlier this year, describing it as a “slap in the face” amid reports government officials had argued they were “not on a par with health workers” and so could not expect a similar raise.

Talks have ground to a halt, with Cosla claiming councils need more funding from the Scottish Government, and ministers saying the discussions are nothing to do with them.

The unions – Unison, Unite and the GMB – say employees are “fed up” and feel underappreciated.

Who will be on strike?

Hundreds of employees are expected to walk out in the second week of November.

Those taking part in the council strikes include bin collectors, cleaners, janitors and school catering staff.

Aberdeenshire Council described the situation as “disappointing” but said it was “hopeful” there would be no impact on its services.

Moray Council said it was unable to comment due to ongoing talks.

Cosla insisted it is committed to “ongoing constructive negotiations”, while the Scottish Government said council workers were “integral” – but reiterated its stance that it is not involved.

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