School staff to vote on strike action in pay dispute

Thousands of school staff across Scotland could walk out on strike later this year in the latest dispute with councils over pay.

GMB Scotland will ask more than 8,000 council staff working in schools and nurseries – excluding teachers – if they are willing to take industrial action after accusing local authorities of failing to improve on a rejected pay offer.

The union claims Cosla, which represents the views of Scotland’s 32 councils, refused to revise the offered 5.5% increase, which was rejected by 94% of its members and was far below inflation.

The ballot will begin on June 12 and run until the end of July, with any industrial action supported by GMB members working in schools and early years education taking place in the new term.

The trade union said the 5.5% offer is “clearly unacceptable” at a time when food prices are rising by almost 20%.

GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services Keir Greenaway said: “Given Cosla is unwilling or unable to offer a fair pay rise or ask ministers to intervene, we have been left with no choice but to ask our members if they are willing to take industrial action in support of our claim.

“They are suffering through an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis but have been offered a rise that is less than last year, despite the cost of living being even higher, and less than is being offered to council workers in England and Wales.

School air quality stock
Any strike action agreed by GMB Scotland union members will take place next term (PA)

“It is absolutely no surprise workers, who are doing some of the most important jobs in Scotland, are unwilling to accept what is effectively a pay cut.
“Sadly, it is equally unsurprising that Cosla is unwilling to revise its offer or ask for Government support.

“That intransigence means we have no option but to ballot our members on industrial action.”

A Cosla spokesperson said council leaders have made “a strong offer” to workers which compares well to other sectors.

They added: “While the offer value in year is 5.5%, the average uplift on salaries going into the next financial year is 7%.

“Those on the Scottish local government living wage would get 9.12% and those at higher grades, where councils are experiencing severe recruitment challenges, would see 6.05%.

“It is an offer which recognises both the vital role of the people who deliver our essential services across councils every day and the value that we, as employers, place on them.

“Crucially, it also raises the Scottish local government living wage by 99p to £11.84 per hour, and sets out a commitment to work with our trade unions to develop a road map to £15 per hour in a way that protects our workforce and services we deliver.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions – the Scottish Government has no formal role.

“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government announced a further £100 million as part of this year’s budget for councils to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers.

“The Scottish Government urges all the parties involved to work together constructively and reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”