Local government pay deal in sight in Scotland as better offer prompts UNISON to suspend strikes

All elements of local authority pay offer will be backdated to April 2023 after Scottish Government helps COSLA find extra £17.2m, as union consults members on proposed deal

Pay talks image
Photo: Zolt4n/Adobe Stock

A local government pay deal for 2023-24 is in sight in Scotland after an improved offer from employers prompted UNISON to suspend planned strikes in schools and consult members.

Employers’ body COSLA said it had worked with the Scottish Government to find an extra £17.2m that meant it could backdate all elements of the existing offer to 1 April 2023.

Pay offer for council staff in Scotland

  • A £2,006 (9.59%) rise for the lowest paid (earning the equivalent of £20,933 on a full-time salary) and a minimum of £1,929 for all other staff.
  • A social worker earning £33,531 (spinal point 55) would receive an extra £2,199 (6.56%).
  • A practitioner earning £38,586 (spinal point 65) would receive an extra £2,334 (6.05%).

The other two unions, GMB and Unite, agreed to the offer last month, after positive votes from their members in consultative ballots.

But UNISON members overwhelmingly rejected it, leading the biggest of the three unions – and the one that has greatest social worker representation – to extend a campaign of school strikes that started in September.

However, in a letter to UNISON last Friday (3 November) following talks between the two sides, said it would be able to address UNISON’s key sticking points.

Extra money for pay offer

Besides the additional £17.2m to ensure all elements of the offer were backdated, employers’ side joint secretary Simon Cameron told UNISON Scotland’s head of local government, Johanna Baxter, that it would set up a taskforce to work towards a local government minimum wage of £15 an hour by 2026-27.

Cameron also said that it would pay the pre-existing offer straight away, “to ensure all staff receive some monies as early as possible”, in the light of the cost of living crisis.

The remaining £17.2m would be paid should UNISON members back the offer in their consultative ballot.

Strikes suspended

Following the news, UNISON said it had suspended school strikes due to take place on 8 and 15 November.

“Over the past few months, from the employers original offer to today, the action of UNISON members has secured more than an additional £100m into the pockets of local government workers,” said Baxter. “This includes an additional £17.2m secured in the last couple of weeks.

“The improvements put forward today help address low pay and support those in the squeezed middle.  The commitment to delivering a minimum rate of pay of £15 per hour for all local government workers by April 2026 will go a long way to tackling low pay across the sector.

Councils’ priority ‘ensuring no one left out of pocket’

“Backdating the full offer to April this year will see an improvement for four in ten local government workers.”

In a statement, COSLA said: “Given that an extremely strong offer was made to our trade unions back in April and then revised in September, it is disappointing that reaching agreement has taken so long.

“But the priority of leaders today is ensuring that nobody is left out of pocket ahead of the winter period, especially given the ongoing pressures of the cost of living crisis.”


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