Local News

Majority of Orkney Schools Hit by Strike Action

The majority of Orkney’s schools will be closed as Unison members take strike action on the 26th, 27th and 28th September. Unison has rejected a pay offer from COSLA. Unison say that the new offer came with the threat of cuts to services and job losses that local authorities and communities can ill afford.

The outside of Doumby single level primary school with a bench outside it

Non-teaching staff (office, catering, auxiliary, janitorial, early years, cleaning) who are absolutely critical to the smooth running of the school will walk out for three days aiming to achieve a fair pay settlement for all staff working at OIC and across Local Government in Scotland.

Unison is the largest trade union representing non-teaching staff in Orkney’s schools and educational settings. The Unite trade union has suspended its industrial action whilst it puts the pay offer to its members.  Its local government committee has recommended ‘acceptance’ of the new COSLA pay offer. Unite will hold a ballot of its local government membership which will open on 26 September and close on 17 October. The GMB trade union has also suspended its action whilst it puts the offer to its members.

COSLA, the organisation which represents Scotland’s Local Authorities has welcomed the suspension of strike action by Unite and GMB. Unsurprisingly they are ‘extremely disappointed’ that Unison members will go ahead with strike action.

COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said:

“I am extremely disappointed with the news from UNISON today that not only are they recommending rejection of this half a billion pay package – they are putting our communities, especially our children and young people, through the turmoil and mayhem of strikes next week with their actions.”

Unison Orkney Local Services Schools representative, Shona Garson explained:

“Unison have been campaigning tirelessly for a fair pay deal for all its members. Support workers within schools are among the lowest paid local government workers so this is a campaign dear to their hearts. Our members based in schools are not wanting to go on strike but when there is no other option left to us, we have risen to the cause and said enough is enough”.

Teachers have separate bargaining arrangements. The EIS, Scotland’s largest teachers union, fully supports the strike action being taken by their education colleagues. Andrea Bradley, EIS General Secretary said:

“The EIS stands in full solidarity with UNISON members within Education who have been forced to take strike action in the just fight for fair pay.

Striking staff and their supporters will gather for a rally on Tuesday 26th September at 11am in front of St. Magnus Cathedral.

Service Conditions Officer for Unison Orkney Local Services Branch, Danny Oliver added:

“Our members, particularly here in Orkney, view strike action as a last resort. We understand and share the frustration that parents and children feel over school closures however the Scottish Government and COSLA have left us with no other choice.

“To put forward a marginally improved offer after the deadline had passed, then tell us the Scottish Government is not putting in any new money and services and jobs will be cut to pay for it is just something we could never accept. Several Orkney Islands Council service areas are experiencing a full-blown staffing crisis and if real term pay keeps falling year after year that is only going to get worse.

“We need properly funded Council services that can meet the needs of Orkney’s communities and a pay settlement that addresses the cost of living crisis our members are facing”

UNISON Orkney Local Services Branch is Orkney’s largest trade union branch with over 600 members. The majority of schools and nurseries in Orkney will be closed across Tuesday 26 September, Wednesday 27 September and Thursday 28 September.

 The following facilities will remain open:

  • Willow Tree Nursery
  • Strynd Nursery
  • Burray Primary (Nursery closed)
  • Eday Primary School and Nursery
  • North Ronaldsay Primary School
  • North Walls Commuinty School and Nursery
  • Papa Westray Primary School and Nursery
  • Rousay Primary School and Nursery
  • St Andrews Primary School (Nursery closed)
  • Shapinsay Primary School and Nursery
  • Sanday School and Nursery
Firth Primary School beside the Bay of Firth with the Old Primary school in the distance

Fiona Grahame

Categories: Local News

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