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‘Undervalued’ public sector staff deserve real pay rise, says unions chief

Strike action by council workers in Glasgow was cancelled earlier this month after unions agreed a deal with the city council (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Strike action by council workers in Glasgow was cancelled earlier this month after unions agreed a deal with the city council (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Undervalued” public sector workers must be paid a real terms pay rise to help them through the cost-of-living crisis, a trade union president has said.

Pat Rafferty, president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) also told Glasgow City Council leaders to “get your act together” over unresolved equal pay disputes.

Some jobs, predominately held by women, were paid less per hour than roles typically held by men, despite being in the same pay grade.

A £500 million settlement was agreed in 2019, however, unions said many staff were still being paid unfairly, leading to threats of new strikes if a deal was not reached.

Unite Scotland policy conference
Pat Rafferty has demanded a real terms pay rise for public sector workers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Strike action by female council workers in Glasgow was cancelled earlier this month after unions agreed a deal with the city council.

Now Mr Rafferty has told the city council to pay the public sector workers, who are the “back bone” of communities, immediately without further delays.

Speaking in Aberdeen at the annual STUC Congress, he said: “Over the last decade, they have faced real terms pay cuts. They are undervalued, underpaid and under immense strain.

“They deserve a real terms pay rise and Glasgow City Council, you better get your act together – pay all outstanding pay claims without any further delays.”

New evidence by the trade union found that Scots wages are lower than the rest of the UK.

Despite more than half earning below £25,000 per year, council staff have faced a decade of real-term pay cuts, according to STUC.

It comes as the STUC overwhelmingly passed policy to demand a cost-of-living pay increase for public sector works, reinforced by a national demonstration on pay and conditions.

Ahead of the council elections on May 5, the organisation is calling for an increase in pay for council workers.

Further strike action could occur over pay disputes as members of the Scottish Secondary Teaching Association (SSTA) rejected a pay offer.

It is understood about 83% of members are prepared to strike if the dispute is not settled.

The offer proposed a 1.22% increase from April last year and a further 1% rise from January 1 2022.

Mr Rafferty, who is also the Scottish Secretary of Unite the Union, said the cost-of-living crisis will push millions of families into poverty without a real terms pay increase.

He said: “The cost-of-living crisis we are facing will, and is, causing despair for millions of people who will struggle to afford the huge increases in the price of food, fuel and energy bills as well as a hike to national insurance.”

He also called for a windfall tax to be imposed on energy bosses who are “reaping the benefits” of oil and gas cost increases.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government “maximises everything we can do to help with the cost of living crisis, including pay rises for public sector workers”.

“Our budget is constrained by decisions taken at Westminster,” she added.

The First Minister pointed to the increase for health workers, but said she wished “it could have been more”.

When asked if a lack of a pay rise could result in increased industrial action by unions and workers, the First Minister said: “I very much hope we can work with trade unions to avoid industrial action.

“While trade unions are there to stand up for their workers, I don’t think industrial action is in anybody’s interest.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The council is committed to pay equality and addressing claims – and we are working with trades unions and others representing workers to do exactly that.”

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