Scottish school strikes: 'significantly' better pay offer needed says Unison as school support staff walkout
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School support workers across Scotland have staged strike action amid a pay dispute with education bosses, with one union stating that a "significantly" improved pay offer is needed to break the deadlock.
Support workers, as well as cleaning staff and janitors, from around 24 council areas in the country began their walkout today (26 September). The strike, held by Unison, is due to last three days, with other unions including GMB Scotland and Unite deciding to suspend action to consider the most recent offer.
The revised offer given by local government body COSLA would see a minimum wage increase of £2,006 for those currently on the Scottish living wage rate, while it would see a minimum increase of £1,929 for workers currently earning above this rate. The living wage would effectively rise to £11.89 from £10.85 - around a 9.6% increase.
However, while Unite and GMB have chosen to suspend action and put the offer to its members, Unison described the revised offer as a "real terms pay cut" and "below the rate of inflation".
Lilian Macer, Unison’s Scottish secretary, said: “The offer we’re looking for is significantly above what has been offered. We are seeking the Scottish Government to come round the table with Cosla, with Unison, to negotiate a fair pay settlement for local government workers in Scotland. It’s imperative that the First Minister move away from the cameras, move away from the press releases and come into the room and talk to Unison.
“The first we heard from the First Minister was last night, asking us, urging us not to take action. If you are serious about discussions with Unison, pick up the phone and as Scottish secretary I’ll be there.”
She added: “We are now in the process of organising a consultative ballot with our members with a recommendation to reject this offer. We will then take soundings from our members about further industrial action. Our strategy, our pay campaign is not finished, we will continue the action as long as our members instruct us to do so.
“More strike action will be on the cards, nothing is off the table and our members will be balloted with a recommendation to reject this offer. No-one wants to see children’s education disrupted, Unison members don’t want to see children’s education disrupted.
“Cosla and the Scottish Government have taken this to the brink and this is where we are as a consequence of no discussion and no negotiation with Unison.”
According to COSLA the newest offer is the "best and final" that the body will offer.
GMB Scotland described the newest offer as "not perfect" but a "clear improvement". One branch of the Unite union suggested that members should cross the picket line where Unison members are striking, however a spokesperson for the union said: “This is not official Unite guidance. Under no circumstances are we advising our members to cross the official picket lines of any trade union taking strike action.”
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has urged Unison to follow other unions and put the offer to its members. He said: "I would urge Unison, who I understand continue to have concerns to follow the other trade unions, suspend strike action and do a consultation with their members."
A spokesperson for COSLA said: “This is a very strong offer that equates to 10% or £2,006 for the lowest paid at the request of the trade unions. Throughout these negotiations we have met every request of our trade union colleagues.”