Union rejects new pay offer as strike by support staff in Scottish schools looms

Thursday, 14 September 2023 15:15

By Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

Unison has rejected the latest “insulting” pay offer from employers ahead of strike action by school support staff next week.

The union warned mass strikes will go ahead later this month unless there is a “significantly improved offer” from employers.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) on Wednesday made a two-part offer that it said would provide at least a £1,929 increase in annual salary for workers by January 1, 2024.

Cosla said the offer would mean the lowest paid workers would see a 21% increase in their pay over a two-year period.

Unison Scotland’s local government committee met on Thursday morning and voted unanimously to reject Cosla’s revised offer outright, saying it represents an increase on the previous offer of only 0.17%.

Unison Scotland 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 have 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.”

Unison claimed that for those on the lowest pay, the revised offer represents an increase of only £0.01 per hour, effective from January 1.

According to the union, those working full-time and earning £25,000 or above are being offered no increase on the previous offer, which has already been rejected.

Unions have warned more than three-quarters of Scotland’s schools could shut when support staff take three days of strike action in the dispute over pay.

Unison said more than 21,000 members will take part in the co-ordinated action over three days from Tuesday September 26 to Thursday September 28.

Members of the Unite and GMB Scotland unions will also take part in the action.

Those going on strike include cleaners, caterers, janitors and school support assistants.

Cosla said the pay offer currently on the table will cost councils just under half a billion pounds.

Speaking after the offer was announced on Wednesday, Cosla’s resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said council leaders have “now made a strong offer even stronger”.

She said: “Council leaders have listened to the workforce and then acted on what they heard by adding additional council funds to get us to the position today where a revised offer can be made.

“We have also secured additional baseline funding from Scottish Government of £94 million, which will be built into the Scottish Government’s funding for councils from next year, that ensures the viability and sustainability of this offer.

“This is an extremely strong offer which not only compares well to other sectors, but recognises the cost-of-living pressures on our workforce and which would mean the lowest paid would see a 21% increase in their pay over a two-year period.

“Councils value their workforce and this offer will support those workers during a cost-of-living crisis, whilst also protecting vital jobs and services.”

Cosla has been asked for fresh comment.

More from North East Scotland News