COUNCILS are facing a testing new 12 per cent pay demand from staff, suggesting the potential for more strikes in the coming year. 

The three main local government unions today submitted a joint claim for at least £4000 more for each full-time worker in 2023/24, an average of £2.20 extra per hour.

The claim from Unison Scotland, the GMB and Unite is understood to cover around 200,000 members of the council workforce.

Wary of Scottish Government plans to cut the overall size of the public sector back to pre-pandemic levels, the unions are also seeking a no compulsory redundancy agreement.

They warned councils and the Government not to use staff “as a political football between your two organisations” as they disagreed over budgets. 

The demand comes as councils are warning the Scottish Government they were not given nearly enough cash in the 2023/24 draft budget to cope with pressures on services and spiralling pay. 

The council umbrella body, Cosla, the employers’ side in the pay claim, settled the 2022/23 pay claim in October.

It included a £2,000 uplift for those earning up to £20,500, and an uplift of 5% or £1,925 (whichever was larger) for those earning more, capped at £3,000. 

The Scottish Joint Council pay demand for 2023/24 is for a rise of 12% or £4,000 (whichever is larger), given the retail price rate of inflation is 13.4%.

In their joint letter to Cosla, Union’s Johanna Baxter, Unite’s Wendy Dunsmore and the GMB’s Kate Greenaway, said “appropriate reward” was needed to sustain the morale of staff dealing with more work and stress in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

They said: “Inflation is currently running at 13.4% (the highest level in over four decades) and for the value of staff wages not to fall back even further, they must at least keep pace with predicted rises in the cost of living, which Treasury forecasts predict will average 10.7% for 2023.

“The Trade Unions are clear that this year’s pay settlement must not only protect workers’ pay from falling back further but should start to reverse the many years of real-terms cuts to wages through pay restoration.  

“This pay claim is therefore designed to protect the lowest paid workers but also start to bring workers earnings back into line with where they should be.”

The unions said they wanted the claim settled “in a timely manner”, not seven months after the pay implementation date as has happened in the past two years, as it caused financial uncertainty for workers, while backdating rises caused “significant difficulties” with benefits.

Acknowledging the funding squeeze on councils, they said: “The economic context going into our 2023 pay negotiations is more acute than ever. 

“We have supported calls for a fair funding settlement for Local Government to the Scottish Government and we will continue to press for this.

“But we must be clear – we will not tolerate our members being used as a political football between your two organisations. 

“The issues they face and the services they deliver are bigger than that and they deserve better.

“If, therefore, councils can’t afford to meet the aspirations of the claim due to their underfunding and the austerity settlements for Local Government we would expect that Cosla would join with us in demanding that the Scottish Government improve the Local Government settlement so that an acceptable pay offer can be provided.

“The last year has seen intensified pressures placed on staff at the same time as greater job choices are opening up for staff in an improving labour market. 

“Nonetheless, the dedication of staff has enabled Local Government to maintain the services and support it has provided to our communities throughout this unprecedented period.

“Therefore, this pay claim represents the reward staff deserve for their dedication, skill and hard work and the minimum improvement in pay needed to maintain workforce morale for delivering consistently high-quality services.”

The Scottish Government has said it is increasing the local government settlement by £570m in 2023/24, but Cosla says only around £70m of this is unallocated and genuinely available.

Cosla has been asked for comment.