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Orkney’s Council workers vote for strike action in pay dispute

Workers in Education and early years services across 10 councils in Scotland have voted for industrial action. 

Thousands of key council workers are now set to take targeted industrial action when schools resume after the summer break. This includes janitors, cleaners, caterers, classroom assistants and administrative staff.

Kirkwall Grammar School from the playing fields

The 10 councils set to be impacted by industrial action are as follows: Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow City, Inverclyde and Orkney. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: 

“The message for both the Scottish Government and COSLA is loud and clear. Thousands of our members have voted to take strike action in education and early years services because they won’t accept a real terms pay cut. Our members deserve far more than the five per cent being served up by the politicians. We will support our members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government.”

The latest development in the escalating pay dispute follows talks with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (COSLA) last week where no improved pay offer was put on the table. The current five per cent pay offer for 2023 was rejected by 84 per cent in a consultative ballot held by Unite in May. The current rate of broader inflation (RPI) stands at 10.7 per cent.

Unite has also demanded that the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, directly intervene in the pay dispute following what it describes as a ‘collapse’ in negotiations with COSLA. The trade union has repeatedly criticised COSLA for failing to approach the Scottish Government to financially support a fairer pay offer for council workers, saying that both bodies are in danger of repeating the ‘same mistakes’ of last summer’s pay dispute. 

Graham McNab, Unite industrial officer, added:  

“Unite’s members will no longer be taken for granted or undervalued across Scottish councils. Our education and early years members are key workers who help to ensure that children have the safest and best possible learning environment.

“A five per cent pay offer when the broader cost of living remains in double digits is a harsh real terms pay cut no matter how much spin COSLA and the Scottish Government try to put on it.

“The politicians have the power to prevent any industrial action hitting schools and early years services. The real question for them is – do they want to play politics with each other at the expense of council workers, or pay our members what they deserve?”

UNISON, the largest trade union of Council workers in Scotland launched an industrial action ballot of 30,000 school staff in every local authority in Scotland on Tuesday 2nd August .

Commenting at the ballot launch, UNISON Scotland head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: 

“COSLA’s offer falls short of UNISON’s pay claim, it is also less than the offer made to the lowest paid local government staff south of the border. And it would be a real-terms pay cut during the cost of living crisis.

“Despite efforts to move negotiations along, we’re now at an impasse. COSLA has refused to improve its pay offer, which UNISON members overwhelmingly rejected. It also says it doesn’t have the cash to offer more but is also refusing to ask the Scottish government for additional funding.

“Council and school staff are fed up.  All school staff should look out for their ballots, which will arrive in purple envelopes, vote and post back as soon as possible.”

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