Scotland faces school closures as union leaders have reached a new impasse in a bid to end the local government pay dispute.

Local government's largest union, Unison have rejected Cosla’s revised pay offer, and say school strikes will still go ahead.

The union's local government committee met and voted unanimously to reject Cosla's revised offer outright, which was sent to the union on Wednesday evening.

The union says that unless a significantly improved offer is received by 5pm on Wednesday schools strikes planned for September 26th 27th and 28th will go ahead.

Local authority areas affected are: Aberdeenshire Council; Highland Council; Orkney Islands

It has written to the local authority group COSLA to say that “the revision is miniscule and as a result the unanimous decision of our committee is that we reject this offer outright and proceed with strike action on the dates already notified.”

It has already balloted 30,000 schools staff across Scotland's 32 council areas over strike action having said the same mistakes over pay made last year were being repeated.

In August, Unison members working in schools voted overwhelmingly to take strike action with mandates in 24 local authority areas across Scotland. The unions says it is the largest ever vote for strike action by school staff in Scotland.

The strike mandate covers over 21,000 members covering the full range of school support staff duties including school cleaners, caterers, janitors and school support assistants.

The union letter to Cosla points out that the revised offer represents an increase on the previous offer of only 0.17%.

They say for those on the lowest pay the revised offer represents an increase of only £0.01 per hour, effective from 1st Jan 2024. Those working full-time and earning £25K or above are being offered no increase on the previous offer, which has already been rejected.

The Herald: Johanna Baxter of Unison

Unison Scotland's head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: “It is deeply disappointing that it has taken COSLA five months since our members rejected the initial offer to present such insignificant changes. We have made very clear that COSLA must put forward a significantly improved offer to avert mass school strikes. Members of our Local Government Committee this morning described this offer as insulting.

It is staggering that COSLA has still not approached, and continue to refuse to approach, the Scottish Government for additional funding to make a meaningful improvement to the pay offer. Given the state of local authority budgets we believe this to be a dereliction of the duty to stand up for local government and fight for the funding needed to both properly reward the local government workforce and keep our public services running.”

Chairman of Unison Scotland's local government committee, Mark Ferguson said: “The strike mandate we have is the strongest show of strength by our members in decades – their resolve to fight for the decent pay rise they, and all their colleagues across local government, so richly deserve is clear.”

Last year's dispute saw piles of rubbish build up in city centres as waste workers went on strike.

Strike action that led to local authorities notifying parents that schools would be shut was only averted a matter of days before the closures were due to take place after more money to pay staff was found. Some local authorities had already told parents not to expect schools to be open.

The local authority group COSLA increased the pay pot for Scotland's 250,000 local authority workers from around £400m to £600m allowing the lowest paid staff to get a pay increase of around 10 to 11% following the intervention of then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liam Kerr MSP said: “Pupils are facing the threat of more disruption to their education as a result of SNP inaction.

“Ministers have been asleep at the wheel as this strike action from school staff has loomed ever closer.

“School staff play an invaluable vole in helping to shape the education of young Scots but it is clear they increasingly feel that their work is not valued.

“The SNP Government must get back round the table and pull out all the stops to prevent this strike action going ahead later this month.

“The Scottish Conservatives are committed to investing in our education so that schools will be both a first-class learning environment and a first-class working environment.”

Local authority areas affected 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.



What was the pay offer?

Before the latest tweak, it was a 5% rise for staff on all spinal column points on the local government pay scale from 1 April 2023.
Further rises of 45p an hour for the lowest paid staff (those on spinal column points 2-18), and 2.5% for those on points 19-43, from 1 January 2024.
An additional 1.5% rise, from 1 January 2024, for those on points 44-64, who currently earn roughly £28,000 – £38,000.
An extra rise, from 1 January next year, of 1% for those on points 65 and above, a group that includes most social workers.
Overall, staff would receive 5.51% more on average in 2023-24 than 2022-23 and their salaries would be 7.02% higher at the end of the financial year than at the start.
For a social worker earning £38,585, their end of year salary would be 6.05% higher (around £41,900).