Schools in Scotland look set to close later this month as two unions announce three days of co-ordinated strike action.

On Thursday UNISON served 14 days' notice to primary and secondary schools in 24 local authorities of strike action by support staff to take place from September 26 to 28.

The action will affect 76% of Scotland's schools, the union said, with more than 21,000 members to take part in the action including school cleaners, caterers, janitors and school support assistants.

In a co-ordinated action, members from Unite, also janitors, cleaners, caterers, classroom assistants and administrative staff, in 11 Scottish Councils will strike on those days.

Unite received a mandate from its members employed by Tayside Contracts who provide catering and janitorial services to schools across Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross councils. These members will also join the strike action.

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UNISON Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: “Going on strike is always a last resort – our members want to be in schools supporting children not on picket lines outside them. But they have been left with no option.

"Local government workers overwhelmingly rejected COSLA’s below-inflation pay offer back in March and despite our repeated representations no improvement has been forthcoming.

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"A real-terms pay cut in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis is a cut our members simply cannot afford.  This is not a highly-paid workforce – three quarters of local government workers earn less than the average Scottish wage. All they want is to be paid fairly for the vital work they do supporting Scotland’s communities – COSLA and the Scottish Government need to get back round the table and work with us to deliver that.”

The councils affected by the UNISON action are: Aberdeenshire Council; Highland Council; Orkney Islands Council; Shetland Islands Council; The City of Edinburgh Council; Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; Fife Council; South Lanarkshire Council; Aberdeen City Council; Glasgow City Council; Clackmannanshire Council; Moray Council; South Ayrshire Council; Stirling Council; West Dunbartonshire Council; North Ayrshire Council; East Dunbartonshire Council; Dundee City Council; Inverclyde Council; Angus Council; East Renfrewshire Council; Perth & Kinross Council; Dumfries & Galloway Council; and Renfrewshire Council.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “COSLA and the Scottish Government have been given warning after warning that strike action will be inevitable unless there is an improved pay offer.

"The entire blame for this situation is down to COSLA’s ineptitude, and the Scottish Government’s dithering.

“Unite’s hard working council members deserve far more than five per cent. They will have their union’s total support in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government.”

The council areas affected by Unite action are: Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, and Orkney.

A COSLA Spokesperson said:  “There was a positive meeting of Council Leaders earlier this week, and we hope to meet the Trade Union colleagues as soon as possible to discuss next steps.”

The GMB Union had announced on Wednesday that it would suspend its own action ahead of a new pay offer, and said it would join the other two unions in action later this month if a deal isn't agreed.

Keir Greenaway, senior organiser in public services, said the strikes were not yet inevitable but Cosla, representing the local authorities, was running out of time to avert industrial action. 

“Our members are absolutely essential to the operation of schools and early years and the support children receive there.

“We have tried repeatedly to find a way forward with COSLA but until an improved offer is made, one that workers believe is acceptable, then disruptive action seems increasingly inevitable. 

“While our members are fighting for fair wages, the leaders of Scotland’s councils have been stealing theirs. 

“The clue is in their job title but so far there has been no leadership, no urgency, no attempt to treat staff with fairness and respect, and no action to avert these strikes.”