School strikes scheduled for next week have been put on hold as union members consider an improved pay offer.

Members of the GMB and Unite unions accepted what was described as a "final offer" from Cosla, but over 90% of Unison members voted to reject it.

Strike action has seen a large number of schools closed, but a new wave of walkouts scheduled for Wednesday, November 8 has been put on hold after a new offer was made.

One-day of strike action was planned to take place in South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Fife but Cosla has now made an improved offer which Unison is advising members to accept.

The offer sees an additional £17.2m in funding to backdate pay to April 1, 2023 and the establishment of a taskforce to reach a £15 per hour minimum wage by April 1 2026 and no later than the same date in 2027.

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Unison Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: “Over the past few months, from the employers original offer to today, the action of Unison members has secured more than an additional £100m into the pockets of local government workers. This includes an additional £17.2m secured in the last couple of weeks.   

"The improvements put forward today help address low pay and support those in the squeezed middle.  The commitment to delivering a minimum rate of pay of £15 per hour for all local government workers by April 2026 will go a long way to tackling low pay across the sector.

"Backdating the full offer to April this year will see an improvement for four in ten local government workers.

"It was Unison members who stood on picket lines to fight for a better deal.  It was Unison negotiators who brokered this deal.  And it will be Unison members who determine whether it gets accepted.”

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Chair of the local government committee, Mark Ferguson said: “The commitment to deliver a minimum of £15 per hour for local government workers is ground-breaking and should see above inflation increases for those on the lowest pay for at least the next three years.  This will make a real difference to their lives.  

"Where previous offers only offered talks about the possibility of this being achieved, these improvements make it happen.  This has been a long-standing Unison objective to help those on the very lowest pay and we will work hard with Cosla on the practicalities of delivering it. 

"It is right we put this offer to our members and I want to thank Unison members for taking action that has helped secure these improvements. Our membership has been growing at unprecedented rates over the past few months which demonstrates that workers know Unison will deliver for them.” 

The GMB union welcomed the move but warned the money must be paid urgently.

Keir Greenaway, the union’s senior organiser in public services, said it was wrong the new money added to the offer by Cosla today will not mean any more for the lowest paid.

He said: “It is welcome that our members will get the offer they voted for but this process has dragged on far too long.

“Our members accepted an offer that prioritised the lowest paid and should not have to wait any longer to receive their money. It must be with them before Christmas.

“We also welcome a renewed commitment to deliver a minimum wage of £15 an hour but ambitions and aspirations don’t pay bills.

“There is no reason to celebrate until our members get that wage instead of being promised it.

“Meanwhile, in the here and now, not one penny of all the extra millions suddenly found to add to this offer will go to workers earning less than £25,000. That does not seem right or fair.”

Cosla said in a statement: "Two of our three trade unions voted to accept the pay offer made on 21stSeptember – at that point, there was no additional money available to increase that offer. 

"After intensive talks, the Scottish Government has identified a mechanism to underwrite limited additional one-off funding which can meet the extra demands of Unison.  This will now allow Councils to put additional funding into the offer, allowing all elements of the current offer to be backdated. Leaders recognise the importance of getting money into the pockets of our workforce as early as possible and today’s decisions will hopefully make that possible.

"Given that an extremely strong offer was made to our trade unions back in April and then revised in September, it is disappointing that reaching agreement has taken so long. But the priority of leaders today is ensuring that nobody is left out of pocket ahead of the winter period, especially given the ongoing pressures of the cost-of-living crisis.

"We remain fully committed to working in partnership with all of our Trade Union partners.  This is the final £17.2m to get a package worth more than half a billion over the line which will increase the wages of our lowest paid employees by £2000 a year, for the second year in succession, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

"We call on Unison to put the decision of Leaders today to their members and give the workforce the chance to decide. In doing so we would very much hope that they stand down all strike action to ensure our children and young people experience no further disruption."