School strikes Scotland: SNP ministers urged to intervene as trade union plans rolling programme of strikes for coming weeks
First Minister Humza Yousaf was challenged to intervene to prevent further disruption after Unison announced a rolling programme of strikes. The trade union said almost 90 per cent of its members had voted to reject the latest pay offer from local government umbrella body Cosla in a consultative ballot.
The rolling programme of strikes in schools and nurseries will take place in the coming weeks, with dates announced within days.
The strikes follow industrial action by Unison members in 24 local authorities last month, leading to school and nursery closures across much of the country.
The rolling programme is likely to mean strikes in different councils on different days, unlike the all-out action last month. The action involves school staff involved in catering, cleaning, pupil support, administration and janitorial departments.
Scottish Conservative finance and local government spokesperson Liz Smith said pupils and parents would be "dismayed” by the prospect of further strike action in our schools.
“The last thing young Scots need is further disruption to their education, having been out the classroom only last month and for large spells during the pandemic,” she said. “SNP ministers have been asleep at the wheel as this dispute has rumbled on for months.
"They have also refused to take responsibility for the role their savage cuts to local authorities has played in these strikes not being resolved. It is clear that education simply is not a priority for this SNP-Green government.
"Humza Yousaf should be pulling out all the stops to avoid these further strikes going ahead and ensuring councils have the resources they need to tackle these situations.”
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.”
Councillor Katie Hagmann, Cosla resources spokesperson, said the ballot result from Unison was “very disappointing given the strength of the offer on the table”.
She said: “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 £2,006 pay increase for our lowest paid workers, which the unions specifically asked for, and £1,929 or at least 5.5 per cent for everyone else is as far as local government can go without impacting service and jobs.”
Before last month’s action, the Scottish Government found £80m for the improved offer, which led to Unite and the GMB suspending strike plans. GMB’s ballot results are due on Tuesday.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions. We would encourage those involved to continue negotiations in the hope that a resolution can be found.
“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government had already committed to providing £235m in 2023/24 to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, and provided assurances over funding in 2024/25.
“The Scottish Government and Cosla will continue to work together to minimise disruption in the event of further industrial action.”
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