Unions have rejected a revised pay offer from councils in Scotland on the grounds that the improvement on the original proposals was “minuscule”.
The rejection means GMB, Unite and UNISON will go ahead with strike action in the country’s schools next week, though walkouts are not currently on the cards across the wider local government workforce, including social workers.
Employers’ body COSLA tabled the revised offer last week, saying it had made a “strong offer even stronger” after unions rejected its original proposal in May this year.
The original offer would have given all staff a 5% pay rise from April 2023, with workers getting a further increase in January 2024 dependent on salary, with proportionately greater rises for the lowest paid.
The main change in the revised proposal is to offer staff either a rise of 5% or 0.65p per hour, whichever is greater, a move that would benefit those at the bottom end of the pay scale.
However, these same staff would gain less than previously proposed in January, meaning they would end the year with a wage just 1p per hour higher than under the original offer.
No increase in offer for social workers
And moderate and higher-paid staff, including social workers would be no better off than under the initial offer.
Most social workers would see their pay go up by 6.05% by the end of the financial year (March 2024), with those currently earning £38,585 having their salaries rise to about £40,900.
This is below the latest rate of inflation, with prices rising by 6.8% in the year to July 2023, according to the Office for National Statistics.
UNISON said it had written to COSLA, to say “the revision is miniscule and as a result the unanimous decision of our committee is that we reject this offer outright and proceed with strike action on the dates already notified”.
‘Deeply disappointing’ increase in pay offer
“It is deeply disappointing that it has taken COSLA five months since our members rejected the initial offer to present such insignificant changes,” said UNISON Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter.
The GMB issued a similar response, saying the revised offer was “far too little, far too late”, with Unite also rejecting it.
Though COSLA said it had secured an extra £94m from the Scottish Government from 2024-25 onwards to help meet the ongoing impact of the pay offer.
However, Baxter said it was “dereliction of the duty” that COSLA had not sought extra funds from the Scottish Government to improve the offer beyond its current level.
Councils ‘going to absolute limits of affordability’
COSLA expressed disappointment with the unions’ reaction.
“I am doubly disappointed today, firstly with the rejection itself, but perhaps more importantly, with the fact that they did not take the revised offer to their membership for consideration,” said COSLA’s resources spokesperson, Katie Hagmann.
She said councils were “going to the absolute limits of what local government can afford”, adding: “The simple fact of the matter is that we have no more money available for pay without real cuts to jobs and services.”