LOCAL government leaders say ministers have to stump up extra cash if there is to be a resolution to prevent a council workers strike that could close hundreds of Scots schools.

A meeting was scheduled for yesterday afternoon between ministers and representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) over a dispute over a 2% pay offer to Scottish council workers.

COSLA is seeking extra funding to allow an improved pay offer to thousands of local government workers.

Three unions, the GMB, Unite and public services union Unison say they have received a mandate for strike action in a local government pay dispute which would shut schools and leave bins unemptied.

A COSLA source said that the 2% pay offer was all that could be afforded without extra funding from the Scottish Government.

"We need to get something from the Scottish Government," said the source. "We have put everything we can on the table"

It comes as the GMB union warned that only a "significantly improved" pay offer to thousands of local government workers will prevent a strike.

The Treasury has rebuffed a Scottish government request for more money to fund the pay rises.

John Swinney, the deputy first minister, wrote to Nadhim Zahawi, the chancellor, warning that services would have to be cut without extra funding.

But a UK government spokesman said the Scottish government had received “a record £41 billion per year for the next three years” in the highest spending review settlement since devolution.

HeraldScotland:

Three unions, the GMB, Unite and public services union Unison say they have received a mandate for strike action in a local government pay dispute.

The GMB has said there needs to be a "significantly improved" offer but it is felt a resolution is only possible if the Scottish Government stumps up more money to local authorities.

COSLA, the cross-party local government association has been warned by the unions Unison, GMB and Unite that it has a mandate to disrupt schools in 16 of Scotland 32 local authorities. They said they had a further sanction to disrupt waste and recycling services across 25 local authorities.

Unions have said the strikes could take place as early as mid to late August after pupils return from the summer break.

The unions have warned COSLA that the only way to avoid strikes is if there is a substantially improved pay offer while inflation has risen to 9.4%.

HeraldScotland:

The GMB which represents over 20,000 staff across Scotland’s thirty-two local authorities, including thousands of school and waste workers preparing for strikes against the pay offer, has urged ministers to take more responsibility for the ongoing pay row.

The union has written to every MSP warning of consequences of a failure to improve the pay offer, which it says is currently the lowest anywhere in the UK public sector.

It said it will go "far beyond disruptive strike action with profound challenges for service delivery if work does not pay for hard-pressed staff".

The letter says: "Without an improved pay offer, GMB estimates that as many as 50,000 local government workers could swell the ranks of the working poor during this turbulent period of inflationary pressure and high energy costs.

"This is against the significantly better pay offer made by the UK Government in England which will deliver a 10.5 per cent increase for the lowest paid in local authorities. The current offer in Scotland therefore stands as the lowest offer to public sector workers in the UK.

"The Scottish Government can and must do more with the powers it has to confront the crisis within local government.

"The Scottish Government and COSLA must radically rethink their approach to council workers. The cost-of-living crisis will tighten and the strain on local services will mount. Therefore, instead of continuing with the approach of managing the decline of services, a renewed strategy is paramount.

"This begins with an improved pay offer for workers who faced the challenges of Covid-19 and will continue to serve communities as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

HeraldScotland:

"It is the responsibility of all MSPs of all parties to ensure council workers are properly paid and services adequately funded. I therefore urge you to join GMB Scotland’s calls and write to the deputy first minister for an improved pay offer in local government and a renewed strategy of the financing of local services."

A three unions strike ballot voted to reject the final 2% pay offer in cleansing, schools and early learning sections.

Unions have to provide two weeks notice to COSLA OF any action.

The three unions have previously raised concerns with COSLA that they had not convened a meeting of the negotiating committee since March 4. They said the newly elected COSLA resources spokesman had made "no effort" to engage with the trade unions "on this pressing matter, or any other, since taking up post".

In March, the public spending watchdog warned that Scotland's councils face "significant" financial challenges amid funding cuts handed down by SNP ministers.

The Accounts Commission found local government funding reduced by 4.2 per cent in real terms between 2013/14 and 2020/21, once Covid cash was excluded.

Trade unions have already written to COSLA to say that councils have failed to come up with an acceptable pay offer for workers whose pay has been "held down for too many years".

GMB Scotland sneior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Tens of thousands of local government workers are at real risk of falling into working poverty this winter unless a significantly improved pay offer that confronts this cost-of-living crisis is tabled for their consultation – that’s the warning we are sending to political leaders this morning.

“Despite the deputy first minister’s plea to the UK Government for more money, the Scottish Government have been content to play politics before when it comes to finding additional support for other areas of our public services, so they can’t divert from the responsibilities they do have.

“The truth is that our political leaders have been sleeping at the wheel on the pay offer for local government because the paltry 2 per cent offer, worth less than a tenner week extra for the lowest paid, was overwhelmingly rejected by staff in March.

“They have already left these key workers at the mercy of soaring inflation and eye-watering energy bills for nearly six months, and as we head into a grim winter where these pressures will only rise further, this crisis will become a catastrophe for our members unless the government acts now.”

The issue is around a proposed 2% pay rise with a 20p rise in the minimum hourly wage at £9.98 - 8p more than the real Living Wage - while inflation was running at 7%. There was concern that the rise was inequitably benefitting higher paid workers while the 50% who earn less than £25,000-a-year were losing out.

The union said that those earning over £40,000 a year - 12% of the local government workforce - would get an increase of more than £800 a year, while some will get as much as £2000 more. Meanwhile those who earn below £25,000 would get a pay increase of just about £500.

They say after years of below inflation pay awards, council workers should be given a one-year £3,000 flat rate pay rise for the next financial year, and for the minimum rate of pay to be increased to £12 per hour.

They also want an agreement that in future all allowances are automatically uprated in line with October inflation rates.

The Scottish Government has previously said it has "no formal role" in the pay negotiations, but said it is working with COSLA to explore options available to find solutions.