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Unite and GMB suspend strike action following ‘serious’ new pay offer – but schools will still close

Fellow union Unison rejected the offer on Thursday but said it was open to further talks with Cosla.

School closed sign
More than a third of schools across Scotland will close due to strike action.

Unite and GMB have suspended strike action across Scotland following a “serious” new pay offer – but a number of schools will still close.

The trade union members will now be balloted next week on the new offer which represents a “significant improvement” on the one made in April.

Discussions over a pay dispute for thousands of non-teaching school staff across the country have been ongoing for months.

Graham McNab, Unite’s lead negotiator for local government, said: “Unite’s primary objective all along has been to negotiate a credible offer that addresses chronic low pay in local government.

“It is an offer that should have been put on the table months ago if it were not for the dithering and blundering by COSLA and Scottish Government ministers.

“We believe the offer makes sufficient progress on low pay, and it is one that our wider membership should have its say on.”

Keir Greenaway, senior organiser in public services for GMB, added: “It would be wrong to suggest this offer is not a clear improvement on those that came before it, especially for the lowest paid workers.

“GMB is a trade union led by its members and it is absolutely right they are asked to decide on what is a significantly better offer.”

Schools will still close

However, schools across the country will still close over three days as the largest union, Unison, rejected the Cosla offer yesterday.

The union, which represents more than 31,000 non-teaching school staff, described the offer of 5.5% as “too little, too late”.

As a result, Unison members will still go ahead with strike action on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week for Unison members.

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils are all affected.

Offer ‘not acceptable’

Purple and green Unison flags
Unison rejected the latest Cosla offer on Thursday.

Johanna Baxter, head of local government for Unison Scotland, said: “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 six 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 crisis and created uncertainty for parents. This is no way to conduct industrial relations.”

However, Cosla said they have met every ask from the unions.

Responding to the news, Cosla’s resources spokeswoman, councillor Katie Hagmann, said it was “good news”.

She said: “This best and final offer which will see every single local government worker receive an in year pay rise of between 6% and almost 10% was made on the basis that strikes would be suspended.

“I am pleased that these two trade unions have recognised this.

“We are talking about a pay package worth over £430 million, specifically targeted at the lower end of our workforce.

“I am pleased with today’s decision from Unite and the GMB because this is the best funding package that Scottish and local government can provide and I would hope that their members accept the offer.”

Pupils off school across north and north-east

The strike action affects early learning staff, support staff and other key workers, including administrators, janitors, cleaning and catering teams.

Councils have advised that schools and nurseries will have different arrangements, but a number will have to close.

Parents and carers will be informed directly about any closures or partial closures.

Shetland Islands Council has announced the full list of its schools which will be shut for the three days.

Aberdeen City Council said it is “highly likely” home learning will have to return.

Meanwhile, Highlands Council has confirmed which of its schools and nurseries will remain open.

Anderson High School, Shetland
Anderson High School is among the schools to close for strike action in Shetland.

Unison open to talks to prevent school strikes

Now, Ms Baxter has said Unison is open to having further discussions with Cosla to prevent the three-day strike action.

She told Radio Scotland: “We have received no contact from Cosla since we sent them out letter rejecting the offer yesterday. So, we remain available to talk at any point.

“There is a resolve among union members about this dispute. It represents a decade of under investment in local government which has not only caused job cuts and decreases to our members pay.

“It has meant that those members who have been left to pick up the pieces of jobs taken away are under far more pressure and far more stress. Something has got to give.”