SCOTLAND’S 250,000 council workers have been offered a one per cent pay increase as local government bosses said they were prepared to end a controversial two-year pay freeze.
The offer was made as part of a deal worth almost £60 million that would guarantee all Scotland’s council workers a Living Wage of at least £7.50 an hour.
Scotland’s 32 councils have signed up to end the pay freeze from April 2013, which local government body Cosla insisted would be funded from existing resources for staff wages.
However, Cosla warned that a one per cent pay rise represented the “very limits of what councils can afford” as employers set out the proposed deal to unions yesterday.
The deal would also mean that about 17,000 employees on wages of about £7.20 an hour would see their pay increase to a Living Wage of £7.50 – a rise of four per cent.
Cosla said the £7.50 rate would be the highest threshold outside London, where council staff are guaranteed £8.55 per hour.
The Living Wage is based on the cost of living and is paid by parts of the public sector over and above the national minimum wage for staff aged 21 and over of £6.19 per hour.
Unions welcomed the Living Wage pledge, but insisted that a one per cent increase would not “close the gap” council workers were facing over low pay after the offer was made during a meeting with Cosla on Thursday.
Douglas Black, regional organiser for public sector union Unison, said his members would now be consulted, with a decision expected in the New Year.
However, he suggested that the union could ask for council workers to be handed additional payments of £1,000 each in 2013 to compensate employees for the two-year pay freeze.
He said: “We’re going to have to go back to our membership on the offer. It’s encouraging that they want to set the Living Wage at £7.50, but we still need to see the whole detail of that.
“Our claim last year for 2012 was £1,000 and that was a carefully worked-out claim based on how far council workers had fallen behind on pay.
“There’s no doubt that one per cent doesn’t close that gap. The one per cent offer is no surprise and I think we’ll want further negotiations with the employers.
“Many of our members will say that the £1,000 claim for 2012 should form the basis for our 2013 claim.”
However, Councillor Billy Hendry, Cosla’s human resources spokesman, defended the one per cent pay rise as he called on Unison and the Unite and GMB unions to accept the offer from what he said were cash-starved councils. He said: “No other part of the public sector has signed up to helping the lowest-paid on this scale or at this rate.
“That is why we hope that the unions will recognise that today’s offer is a good deal and that it represents the very limits of what councils can afford.
“We are sure that staff and the communities they serve will understand that with a funding gap projected by 2016-17 of more than £3bn, councils have gone to the limits of affordability to put the very best possible deal on the table.
“Our staff did not create this financial situation, and neither did councils.
“However, we need to co- operate rather than compete, and join our efforts together to make sure that we protect jobs and vital services.”