As much as this is about pay, it’s also about standing up for local services
By Bill Heaney
UNISON, Scotland’s largest local government union, has today (Monday) announced a rolling programme of strike action in schools across the country in the coming weeks.
It comes after UNISON members voted overwhelmingly to reject Cosla’s pay offer, with nine in ten workers (89.92 %) voting against the offer in a consultative ballot.
UNISON will now move to a rolling programme of action in schools, and early years establishments linked to schools, from Shetland to Stranraer. Dates will be announced in the coming days.
UNISON’s Scottish secretary Lilian Macer said: “No one takes industrial action lightly. It’s a very difficult decision for anyone, but as much as this is about pay, it’s also about standing up for local services.
“The school staff taking part in strike action support children in school every day of the year, and many are parents with school-age children too.
“Workers are taking action because they want children to be educated in well-resourced, well-staffed schools. They want to start trying to reverse years of cuts and under-investment in the workforce and services.
“No one wants to cause disruption for pupils and parents, but school staff have been left with no other option. The blame must be laid squarely at the door of Cosla and Scottish ministers. They have it within their gift to end the strike, but they are showing no sign of wanting to do so. That’s a terrible shame for everyone affected.”
Chair of UNISON Scotland’s local government committee Mark Ferguson said: “UNISON’s local government members have voted overwhelmingly to reject this offer, which shows their resolve to fight for the fair pay they deserve.
“I’m a parent myself, so I understand the disruption these strikes cause. But if wages don’t rise, school staff will leave for other jobs beyond education that pay significantly more an hour. That would be a disaster and would help no one.
“The current offer amounts to a real-terms pay cut and adds further stress to a dedicated workforce who are already suffering from the cost-of-living crisis.
“Cosla and the Scottish government need to give school staff a decent pay rise, fund any increase properly and commit to implementing a pay of £15 per hour for all local government workers.”
UNISON has secured mandates to take strike action in 24 local authority areas, of every size and geographical scale, across Scotland – Aberdeenshire Council, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, The City of Edinburgh Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Fife Council, South Lanarkshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, Glasgow City Council, Clackmannanshire Council, Moray Council, South Ayrshire Council, Stirling Council, West Dunbartonshire Council, North Ayrshire Council, East Dunbartonshire Council, Dundee City Council, Inverclyde Council, Angus Council, East Renfrewshire Council, Perth & Kinross Council, Dumfries & Galloway Council, and Renfrewshire Council.
UNISON’s strike mandate covers over 21,000 members covering the full range of school support staff duties, including school cleaners, caterers, janitors and school support assistants. It UNISON’s mandate covers members working in over 1,868 schools across Scotland.
Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson said: “Obviously this ballot result from UNISON is very disappointing given the strength of the offer on the table. I would like to make the following points:
“Firstly, Scotland’s Council leaders value their workforce. Secondly, we have listened to our Trade Unions, met all their asks and worked with Scottish Government to put an incredibly strong half a billion pound pay package on the table – which we hope the other trade union members will vote to accept.
“Finally, offering almost 10 per cent or a £2006 pay increase for our lowest paid workers, which the unions specifically asked for, and £1929 or at least 5.5% for everyone else is as far as Local Government can go without impacting service and jobs.”