Flat rate pay offer will do more for lowest paid council workers, says Cosla

·5-min read
A major clean-up operation was undertaken when cleansing staff went back to work in Edinburgh on Tuesday (Lesley Martin/PA) (PA Wire)
A major clean-up operation was undertaken when cleansing staff went back to work in Edinburgh on Tuesday (Lesley Martin/PA) (PA Wire)

Local authority body Cosla has been urged to make a flat rate pay offer to council staff to resolve strike action.

Unite, Unison and GMB rejected an offer that could have halted planned action in waste services and education impacting councils in many parts of the country, halting rubbish pick-ups and closing hundreds of schools.

Following a meeting with Deputy First Minister John Swinney, GMB organiser Keir Greenaway said union leaders had urged Mr Swinney to press councils into making a flat rate offer – rather than one based on a percentage increase to salaries.

“The message delivered on behalf of our members was clear: do more for the lowest paid workers by delivering a flat rate offer for their consultation,” he said.

“The Deputy First Minister also reiterated his position that there is no more money to offer, but we were also clear the existing offer is not in the words of Cosla bosses, ‘as good as it gets’.

“It can be better for the lowest paid frontline workers in local government, if the offer puts more consolidated money into their salaries instead of the pockets of the highest paid.

“GMB hopes the Deputy First Minister carries that message to Cosla and we are giving Cosla chiefs every opportunity to do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, a major clean-up operation took place in Edinburgh on Tuesday as waste and cleansing services resumed after nearly two weeks of strike action by workers.

The city’s waste workers walked out on August 18 in a dispute over pay, but returned to work on Tuesday in the Scottish capital where huge piles of rubbish have accumulated in many streets.

The strike was timed to coincide with Edinburgh’s festival season, and spread to around two thirds of other council areas.

Unite industrial officer Wendy Dunsmore warned that a “winter of discontent” lies ahead.

The union official told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We are absolutely resolute that this is going to be a winter of discontent and it will escalate, but we are hoping against all hope that the Scottish Government and Cosla will see sense and get back round the table with a proper rise for the lowest paid within local authorities.

Rubbish piled up in Edinburgh during the strike (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Rubbish piled up in Edinburgh during the strike (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

“Public Health Scotland previously warned the build-up of waste could become a risk to human health, and told councils that “decontamination of public areas where bins have overflowed may be required”.

Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said: “All of our waste and cleansing crews will return to normal service on Tuesday.

“While they’ll be working hard to catch up on collections and making every effort to collect litter across the city, we’re expecting things to take a little while to return to normal, and I’d like to thank all those living in, working in or visiting the city for their patience.

“At first, we’ll be focusing street cleansing resources on the worst affected areas of the city and to help with this we will be bringing in additional resources to supplement our in-house crews from Tuesday.

The clean up began on Tuesday (Lesley Martin/PA) (PA Wire)
The clean up began on Tuesday (Lesley Martin/PA) (PA Wire)

“As per Public Health Scotland’s advice, any areas that need to be decontaminated will be, as part of street cleansing duties.”

He later told BBC Radio Scotland he expects the rubbish to be cleared by the end of the week.

The council said that additional resources will be deployed to support the clean-up effort, particularly in the city centre and other areas most affected by the strike.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said all options in making more funding available amid the strikes have been “exhausted”.

After meeting with trades unions and Cosla on Tuesday to encourage bringing the industrial action to an end, Mr Swinney said: “It is disappointing that trades unions have either rejected or are recommending to their members that the latest pay offer is rejected.

“The latest offer would see the Scottish Government provide a further £200 million over two years – in addition to the £140 million of additional funding already announced – to provide a Cost of Living Payment to local authority workers earning below around £39,000. We are fully committed to doing all we can to support those on the lowest incomes.

“We have had to make difficult decisions and dig deep to provide extra funding. We are now at the absolute limit of what public finances can afford.

“I urge all parties to continue negotiations and explore all available resources available in order to reach a fair and sustainable settlement as soon as possible.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, Cosla’s resources spokesperson said: “The offer, negotiated on behalf of Scotland’s 32 councils, is an overall package worth half a billion pounds, giving 5% to all staff plus an additional cost of living payment to our lowest paid employees.

“Based on a 37-hour week no member of staff will get less than an additional £1,925 and for those earning under £20,500 at least a £2,000 pay increase – for this year and also next year.

“This has been designed to address the concerns and firm view of trade unions that the lowest paid must be protected during this crisis and demonstrates local government’s commitment to not leave anyone behind.

“Councils continue to strive to lead the way in pushing up minimum rates of pay and as well as this are including an extra days annual leave this year.”