West Lothian strike: Hundreds of trades workers to walkout in bitter pay dispute with 'callous' council

Union claims a well-deserved pay increase has been delayed.
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Three hundred craft workers employed by West Lothian Council will take several rounds of strike action in a dispute over pay.

Strike action will take place on 19, 20 and 21 December, followed by a further two days of action on 3 and 4 January 2024. Council house repairs will be significantly delayed and empty houses will remain unfit to be let out, Unite warned.

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The row centres on an agreement covering craft workers employed by local authorities and outsourced workplaces who maintain council buildings and housing. The agreement from 2007 covers a range of trades including joiners, plasterers, bricklayers, labourers, painters, and electricians.

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesPhotographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

West Lothian Council, to date, has refused to apply arrangements that ensure pay progression for craft workers who carry out additional tasks which they are entitled to under the terms of the agreement.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “West Lothian Council is digging a deeper and deeper hole for itself. Not only is it refusing to pay our members for the additional tasks carried out but now they have also chosen to delay a pay increase in time for Christmas.

“Unite’s craft members will have their union’s full support in the fight to have their jobs, pay and conditions respected by this Scrooge council as they begin their latest rounds of strike action.”

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Unite can further confirm that West Lothian Council has stated that they will not be including the Scotland-wide COSLA craft workers' pay increase in the December pay run citing a “lack of time” for processing the payments.

Graeme Turnbull, Unite industrial officer, added: “Around 300 craft workers will resume strike action due to West Lothian Council’s callous behaviour. Instead of trying to resolve this dispute, the council has decided to pour petrol on the flames of our members’ anger by also delaying a well-deserved pay increase.”

“We are talking about significant sums of money for workers and their families which is being unfairly delayed and denied to them. Our members have no choice but to take strike action because this stingy council seems incapable of having any festive feelings.”

Union members supported strike action by 96.3 per cent, after striking for two days in October over the dispute.

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A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “We value the important role carried out by our craft workers, and ensure they receive comparable wages and conditions to similar workers in their sector in return.

“We have honoured all our responsibilities under the craft agreement, and do not agree with Unite’s claims for backdated payments.

“We also completely refute the claim that we have sought to delay any backdated payments. If Unite agreed to the national local government pay agreement at the same time as the other trade unions, payment would have been made this month.

“Unite were advised of this position at the time that this would mean their members would miss the cut-off for December payroll, which is earlier than normal to allow staff to be paid before Christmas. The delay in their members not receiving the back pay this month rests solely with Unite.

“All backdated wages for the national pay award for all workers concerned will be paid in full in January.”

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