Strike action for thousands of council workers ‘inevitable’ if Cosla pay dispute not resolved, GMB Scotland warns
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GMB Scotland will alert the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) on Monday of its intention to ballot all school, early years and waste and cleansing service members between June 6 and July 26.
The ballot of nearly 10,000 workers is in response to the local authority body’s 2% pay offer against all council pay grades for 2022/23.
Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser, warned the offer would equate to a real-terms pay cut for frontline workers while disproportionately supplying the biggest increases to the councils’ highest earners.
He said: “Tens of thousands of the lowest paid staff in local government will go from the frontline of public service delivery to below the breadline unless their pay confronts soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills.
“But instead of recognising the scale of the challenge and rising to meet it, political leaders are sleeping at the wheel and blaming each other for their inability to address it – it’s a far cry from their doorstep applause every Thursday night only two years ago.
“Let’s be clear. A pay rise of just 2% for the workers earning under £25,000 a year is worth no more than a tenner a week. It will turn a crisis into a catastrophe for many working families and there is no trade union worth its salt that would leave that unchallenged.
“Unless Cosla comes back to the negotiating table with a vastly improved offer that reflects the fact our members are working in the biggest cost-of-living crisis in 40 years, then industrial action looks inevitable”.
Scottish Labour’s local government spokesperson Mark Griffin, said: “The SNP’s chronic underfunding of local government has put our vital services at risk and has left frontline workers to pick up the pieces.
“The SNP cuts to council budget have taken Tory austerity and multiplied it.
“The result is strained essential services and a failure to value the workforce, who stepped up across Scotland throughout the pandemic and beyond and are now bearing the brunt of a cost-of-living crisis.
“These workers have gone above and beyond – the Scottish Government should fund a pay offer which reflects that.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is not involved in local government pay negotiations.
“Pay settlements for council workers, excluding teachers, are a matter for Cosla and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC).
“The Scottish Government is not a member of the SJC and council pay is therefore not a matter it can directly intervene in.
“It is for trade union colleagues to reach a negotiated settlement with Cosla.
“We are treating councils fairly and providing a real terms increase of 6.3% to local authority budgets this year.
“This comes against a cut to the Scottish Government’s overall budget of 5.2% in real terms, due primarily to UK Government funding reductions.
“Council staff play a crucial role in our communities as we rebuild the economy following the pandemic.
“We would encourage the parties to maintain dialogue and stay at the table to reach agreement.”