Industrial action on cards at Scottish councils as union members reject offer

UNISON, Unite and GMB warn employers strikes will follow without improvement to 5.5% offer overwhelmingly rejected by members

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Photo: md3d/Fotolia

Industrial action is on the cards at Scotland’s councils after union members overwhelmingly rejected employers’ offer to raise pay by 5.5% on average in 2023-24.

Consultative ballots saw 87% of UNISON members oppose the proposed settlement, with 94% of staff belonging to the GMB and 84% of those from Unite doing the same.

The vast majority (91%) of UNISON members who voted to reject said they would be prepared to take some form of industrial action in pursuit of an improved deal, with inflation in the year to March 2023 running at 10.1% according to the Office for National Statistics.

Council staff ‘poor relations of public sector’

The union’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter, said: “It is disappointing that yet again UNISON members are having to consider withdrawing their labour in order to secure a decent pay rise – it’s the last thing they want to do but they continue to face a cost of living crisis and they have understandably had enough of being treated like the poor relations of the public sector.”

What is the pay offer in Scotland?

  • 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 £40,900*).

COSLA said it was disappointed by the rejection of what it described as a “strong offer”.

Offer is ‘strong’, say employers

“This strong offer clearly illustrates the value councils place on their workforce, and it compares well to other sectors,” said its resources spokesperson Katie Hagmann. “It recognises the cost-of-living pressures on our workforce and critically, it seeks to protect jobs and services.”

Council staff in schools and waste services – though not social work – took strike action over COSLA’s 2022-23 offer, which was subsequently improved – and approved by union members – thanks to additional cash from the Scottish Government.

For UNISON Scotland, Baxter added: “COSLA and the Scottish government need to get around the table and fund local government properly so these workers get a pay rise that recognises and rewards the vital work they do.  The alternative is that we remain in this cycle of dispute year after year with the result that local government workers become increasingly exasperated and disillusioned at the way they are being treated.”

*The article originally said these social workers’ pay would rise to £41,900, which was incorrect. We apologise for the error.


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