Council staff in Scotland face real-terms pay cut, warns union as it prepares strike consultation

UNISON Scotland says likely offer is 'miles away' from what staff would accept, but employers' body says it has 'very little room to manoeuvre'

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Council staff in Scotland are facing an ‘unacceptable’ real-terms pay cut in 2024-25 heralding potential strike action.

That was the warning from UNISON Scotland last week following unions’ latest talks with employers’ body COSLA.

COSLA is yet to make an offer in response to claims from UNISON and fellow union Unite for increases of 7% or £1.60 an hour – whichever is greater – and a call for a £1.50 an hour rise from the third union, the GMB.

However, based on the talks held so far, UNISON Scotland said the likely offer amounted to a real-terms pay cut and would be “rejected outright” by the union’s members, triggering a consultation on taking strike action.

‘Employers are miles away from offer staff would accept’

“Pay talks with COSLA have been cordial. But asking council workers to take a real terms wage cut once again is unacceptable,” said UNISON local government committee chair Colette Hunter.

“As things stand, employers are miles away from offering anything staff are likely to accept. It’s clear no lessons seem to have been learned from last year’s strikes over pay.”

This is a reference to strikes that took place in schools and early years settings over last year’s pay deal. Unions eventually agreed to a deal worth about 6% for the average social worker, after COSLA boosted its offer twice, with the help of a funding injection from the Scottish Government.

Tight local government finance settlement

However, this year, the employers’ body said it was severely constrained by its finance settlement for 2024-25.

According to the Scottish Government, its £14bn settlement for the country’s 32 local authorities represents a 2.5% rise in real terms.

But COSLA rejects this interpretation, saying that authorities had been given a “flat cash settlement”, amounting to a cut in real terms.

Its finance spokesperson, Kate Hagmann said this “leaves very little room to manoeuvre without service reductions and job losses which we want to avoid at all costs”.

She said the threat of strike action was “disappointing”, adding: “We are close to making an offer, based on the mandate given to me by Council Leaders.  Another meeting is being scheduled as soon as possible and we are doing all that we can to get an offer on the table.”

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