School strikes Scotland: Edinburgh schools face mass closure in September as staff vote to strike over pay

Every school in the city could be closed as staff vote to stage walkouts in a row over pay.
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Schools in Edinburgh could be forced to close later this month, a union has warned, after staff voted to strike over pay.

In the biggest ever vote for strike action by school staff in Scotland, the walkouts could see thousands of schools across the country shut their doors, including all 123 schools in Edinburgh. Unison said it is preparing to close almost 2,000 schools across Scotland when more than 21,000 members go on strike following the ‘overwhelming vote’ in favour of strike action.

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The union, Scotland's largest union in local government, has written to COSLA and will give the employer at least 14 days’ notice of strike dates, which will be announced in the coming days. A mandate for strike action has been won in 24 local authorities.

Unison has a mandate to close all Edinburgh's 123 schoolsUnison has a mandate to close all Edinburgh's 123 schools
Unison has a mandate to close all Edinburgh's 123 schools

The letter says: “This strike mandate is the strongest show of strength by our members in decades – their resolve to fight for the decent pay rise they, and all their colleagues across local government, so richly deserve is clear for all to see. Members were due their pay uplift in April of this year – it is therefore already five months overdue, despite our claim being submitted on January 26, 2023. This is unacceptable.”

Unison Scotland's head of local government, Johanna Baxter, said: “UNISON's school staff have spoken loudly and clearly – unless COSLA leaders put forward a significantly improved offer soon further industrial action will take place. Unison's mandate, voted for by school staff, covers over 21,000 workers in almost 2000 schools across Scotland.

"We are in discussion with colleagues about strike dates and these will be announced in the coming days. No one wants to see schools close - our members want to be in schools supporting children, not outside them on picket lines - but the lack of movement from COSLA and the Scottish Government are leaving them with little option.”

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Unison Scotland local government committee chair, Mark Ferguson said: “This is not a highly paid workforce. Three quarters of local government workers earn less than the average Scottish wage, £33,000 per year, and the majority of them are women. The current pay offer falls short of the current rate of inflation and would amount to a real-terms pay cut, adding further stress to a dedicated workforce who are already suffering from the current cost of living crises."

Workers were due a pay rise in April. They have been offered 5 per cent rise and an additional increase dependent on salary from January 2024 for all local government workers. But the Union is calling for 12 per cent pay uplift.

Workers in every council area were balloted with an overwhelming vote in favour of strike action. Trade union laws require a 50 per cent turnout. The 24 councils that met the threshold and where strikes are threatened are Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, City of Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee City, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Moray, North Ayrshire, Orkney Islands, Perth & Kinross, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire.

COSLA said the body will comment following the meeting on Tuesday.