SCHOOL staff, home care workers and binmen are to be balloted for industrial action in a dispute over local authority pay.

Three major trade unions have told local authorities that it is to progress preparations for a formal industrial action ballot accusing the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) - which acts as an employers' association - of "lack of respect" over negotiation failures.

Unite said local authorities should take immediate action to improve pay or see strikes this summer.

The union confirmed that it is in the process of targeting selected groups of workers employed in all thirty-two Scottish authorities to ballot members in schools, home care and cleansing as early as June.

It comes after the public services union Unison confirmed an indicative ballot of council staff revealed an "incredible" 89.8% voted in favour of taking industrial action up to an including strike action over an "unacceptable" pay offer.

Unite says a similar ballot showed a "massive" 91% were prepared to take industrial action in response to the COSLA "failure" to put forward a fair and decent offer.

The Herald revealed any future strike is likely to be targeted to areas where there will have the "highest impact", and to ensure that any stoppage meets strict legal thresholds over turnout, with schools top of the agenda.

Trade unions representing 200,000 local government workers across Scotland have already written to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) - which acts as an employers' association - 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".

Unite, Unison and the GMB unions have written to COSLA to say that they will “progress our preparations for a formal industrial action ballot” expressing anger at the treatment of the pay claim.

They said that a COSLA meeing on April 29 did not initially even have the issue of pay on the agenda.

“This is unacceptable, particularly as COSLA officers have been insistent that this would be discussed at the meeting and negotiations progressed as a matter of urgency. As a result of those assurances we made clear that our negotiators were willing to make themselves available that day or any time prior to it, to help facilitate a speedy resolution to this issue but you did not take up this opportunity,” the unions said.

“We understand however that COSLA leaders have chosen not to improve their offer; that a motion proposing a revised offer be put forward was voted down and that COSLA officers advised leaders not to make any revised offer until after the elections. Once again this demonstrates a failure of COSLA and its leaders to deliver for these frontline workers.

HeraldScotland: Strike

“We also note that you have not convened a meeting of the negotiating committee since March 4, thus reinforcing the lack of respect for the negotiating process. This is at best deeply disappointing, to say the least, and suggests that COSLA would rather challenge their own workforce than the Scottish Government.”

A potentially embarrassing strike over last year’s pay claim involving thousands of binmen, fleet maintenance, school cleaning, school janitorial, and recycling was due to take place between November 8 and 12, as Glasgow was hosting COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference.

Scotland’s second city welcomed over 100 leaders including US president Joe Biden for the political stage of the UN summit at a time it was already blighted by rubbish, fly-tipping and reports of rats in the streets.

But on the eve of the conference and after more than 10 months of negotiations, money was found for an improved pay offer which was accepted.

Unite has accused COSLA leaders, who recently voted against making a further pay offer, of having “zero backbone” in standing up for local government workers and demanding more financial support from the Scottish Government.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members across local government in Scotland have had enough of year on year pay freezes and cuts, which is why we are getting battle-ready to deliver the pay rise they deserve.


Unions' table of council staff pay awards

“It’s a sorry indictment of both COSLA and the Scottish Government that our members are preparing to vote on strike action but from the Shetland Islands to the Borders, Unite’s members have their union’s full backing in their fight for decent pay.”

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 unions have 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.