A union representative for Orkney council workers has said their members in the isles are at “breaking point”.
Karen Davidson, who is the regional organiser for Orkney local services with Unison, said workers feel “aggrieved by the way they’ve been treated” and are disappointed that they’ve had to resort to strike action.
On Monday, it was confirmed that council workers in Orkney would be among employees from 17 local authorities who will undertake industrial action if workers’ demands are not met.
The dispute has arisen over a pay claim for 2021-22.
Action to take place during COP26
School catering, cleaning, janitorial, waste & recycling, and fleet services staff will strike for a week between November 8 and November 12 as COP26 takes place.
Ms Davidson said: “Local government submitted the pay claim for council workers and it has taken Cosla quite some considerable time to come back with an offer.
“It does not meet the request that we had put in.
“We’re a bit disappointed that council workers seem to be the poor relation when it comes to the Scottish Government and Cosla – they always seem to lag behind any pay award that is given or recognition towards the work that was undertaken during the pandemic.
“Our council members opened schools to allow other key workers to go to their work.
“We had council workers that took on additional and different duties and they’ve had no reward.”
Asked why these specific kinds council workers will strike, she said: “We are a member-led union and our members felt that school catering, cleaning, janitorial, waste & recycling, and fleet services were the best group of staff to try and focus Cosla and the Scottish Government.
“These are the lowest-paid members of staff in the council and they feel really aggrieved by how they’ve been treated. They’ve suffered years of low pay.
“Because of the pandemic, they’ve just had enough.”
Schools anticipated to close
Ms Davidson could not confirm the exact number of workers that will strike in Orkney, but she did say that they are expecting the action to result in the closure of a number of schools.
However, there is not anticipated to be any effect on rubbish or recycling pick-ups in the county.
She added: “We’re always disappointed when we have to take industrial action.
“Unison is not a striking union. We take it very seriously but members are at breaking point.
“They’ve got to the stage where if the Scottish Government and Cosla don’t start recognising the work that council workers do then they have no option to do this.
“Council leaders do have the option to go back to Cosla and make representation to the Scottish Government and we would urge them to do that.”
Council to evaluate impact on service provision
An Orkney Islands Council spokeswoman said: “The council was informed in writing by Unison on Monday afternoon that, following a ballot for industrial action, they would be calling their members who work in school catering, cleaning and janitorial services to participate in strike action during the period November 8 to November 12, 2021.
“Other trade unions have not established a mandate for industrial action in Orkney.
“The action announced is in response to the ongoing national dispute in relation to a pay award for local government staff for the year 2021-22 which is negotiated between the trade unions and Cosla as the umbrella body for local government.
“The council will be evaluating what impact this announcement may have on service provision as a matter of urgency and will ensure appropriate communications are issued in due course.”