The first Scotland-wide council strike in a decade is on the cards after trade unions rejected a new pay offer.

Unison, which represents some 80,000 local authority staff, has notified umbrella body Cosla that it intends to ballot for strike action, the Herald understands.

It comes after crunch talks collapsed yesterday when Cosla returned to the negotiating table with an extra 97p per week for the lowest paid staff.

Previously council bosses had offered staff earning up to £25,000 a flat rate rise of £800. They returned to unions yesterday with an offer of £850.

They did not amend their offer for other employees, which remains at 2% for those earning between £25,000 and £40,000, 1% for those earning up to £80,000 and a flat raise of £800 for anyone earning above £80,000.

In a letter sent to Cosla, seen by The Herald, Unison’s head of local government Johanna Baxter told the body the offer was “not a significant improvement in your original offer, which was overwhelmingly rejected by our members”.

Ms Baxter advised that notice would be served on “a number” of council and arms’ length employers on Monday confirming the intention to ballot for strike action.

She added: “It is now more than 6 months since the Joint Trade Unions submitted our pay claim on behalf of the 200k local government workers covered by the Scottish Joint Council negotiating machinery and 18 months into a global pandemic which has seen them working flat out on the frontline with no reward.

“Our members are now at breaking point and are worth more than what is on offer.

“We implore you to come back to the negotiating table with proposals that will take consideration of, and reward, their significant contribution.”

It is understood that consultative ballots taken by Unison previously have shown members are highly in favour of strike action, indicating a strike is likely to go ahead unless a better pay offer is provided.

If it proceeds, it would be the first Scotland-wide council worker strike in more than a decade.

Workers have voted for strike action in the past over pay negotiations, however the talks have always concluded without a strike going ahead.

However staff are thought to be worn out from the pandemic, and feel undervalued with the latest offer.

Schools, cleansing services and social care provision are among the areas which could be affected.

Trade union GMB is also set to conduct a consultative ballot of its members over the £850 offer, running for two weeks and beginning on Monday. If this shows members do not want to accept the offer, the union could also ballot for strike action.

Council chiefs at Cosla had appealed to the finance secretary Kate Forbes for more funding, however it was reported that the plea was rejected and no extra cash was provided.

Unions say local authority staff have gone above and beyond during the pandemic, and deserve a pay rise equal to the 4% offered to NHS staff in Scotland.

GMB Scotland Senior Organiser Drew Duffy said: “Local government workers are being treated like pawns in a political stand-off between COSLA chiefs and the Scottish Government.

“Council leaders earning six-figure salaries say they can’t pay while the Scottish Government say they won’t pay, but where is the recognition and value for staff on the frontline?

“A further £50 on the previously rejected £800 offer for the lowest paid isn’t good enough, and that’s why are consulting our membership over what they want to do with this derisory offer.”

Mark Ferguson, the Chair of Unison’s Local Government Committee said: “We are resolute in our determination to get a fair pay rise for all council staff in Scotland.

"Council staff have been working throughout the pandemic running homeless services, waste and recycling, social work, education and much, much more.

"They have kept our society going over the past few years and the past year in particular has taken an enormous toll on council staff.”

A COSLA spokeswoman said: “We appreciate everything that Local Government workers have been doing, and continue to do, to support people and communities during the pandemic and as we begin to recover.

“We continue with on-going constructive negotiations.”

The Scottish Government said it was not its responsibility to decide on council pay offers, but said those working for local authorities were "integral" during the pandemic. 

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Public sector workers – including local government staff – are integral to tackling the pandemic in Scotland.

“Despite the pandemic exerting unprecedented pressures on our budget, the 2021-22 local government finance settlement of £11.7 billion includes an additional £375.6 million, or 3.5%, for day-to-day revenue spending. In addition, the value of our overall COVID-19 support package for councils now totals more than £1.5 billion.

“The Scottish Government is not involved in the local government pay negotiations. Pay settlements for council workers (excluding teachers) are a matter for COSLA and are determined through negotiations at the Scottish Joint Committee (SJC). 

“The Scottish Government is not a member of the SJC and council pay is therefore not a matter it can intervene in. It is for trade union colleagues to reach a negotiated settlement with COSLA.”