School strikes Scotland: Unions suspend industrial action to take pay offer to members in major split, but strikes still set to go ahead
Two unions that were set to be involved in next week’s school strikes have suspended industrial action as a split emerged over an existing pay offer.
Unite announced yesterday morning it would suspend three days of strike action planned from Tuesday next week and signalled it would ballot its membership on a new offer from councils. And the GMB union followed suit soon after, confirming it would also suspend industrial action.
Unite leaders have recommended the offer, which has been put forward by council umbrella body Cosla and will see the lowest wage see an uplift of £2,000, be accepted.
The stance has driven a clear wedge between the three unions who were due to participate in the strikes. Unison – the largest of those involved – yesterday stood by its earlier rejection of the same pay offer, although it said it would consult with members.
The union has strike mandates in 24 council areas, but it is not clear what the full impact will be on schools.
Councils in South Lanarkshire, Fife, Inverclyde, Orkney and the Western Isles said their schools will have to remain shut next week, but Dundee City Council said it was now working to open as many schools as possible.
Local authorities in Falkirk, East and West Lothian and the Highlands said their schools will be open as usual next week. Aberdeen City Council said its schools would definitely be closed on Tuesday, but would be reviewing its staff numbers to see if schools could open on Wednesday and Thursday.
One Unite branch, situated in East Dunbartonshire, went as far as branding the Unison position “bizarre”. Unite and GMB members have been told they could face the prospect of having to cross Unison picket lines.
The new offer represents a minimum wage increase of £2,006 for those on the Scottish Government’s living wage and a minimum increase of £1,929 for workers who are earning above the living wage.
Unison Scotland’s head of local government Johanna Baxter said the deal “short-changed the majority” and threatened job cuts.
“No-one takes the decision to strike lightly, but council workers in Scotland deserve far better,” she said.
Graham McNab, Unite’s lead negotiator for local government, said: “Unite’s primary objective all along has been to negotiate a credible offer that addresses chronic low pay in local government. It is an offer that should have been put on the table months ago if it were not for the dithering and blundering by Cosla and Scottish Government ministers.”
The ballot of union members will open on Tuesday and close on October 17.
Cosla’s resources spokesperson councillor Katie Hagmann said: “We have met every ask of our trade union colleagues throughout these negotiations and this best and final offer which will see every single local government worker receive an in-year pay rise of between six and almost 10 per cent was made on the basis that strikes would be suspended. I am pleased that these two trade unions have recognised this.”
Deputy First Minister Shona Robison welcomed the decisions from Unite and GMB, adding she encouraged negotiations with Unison to continue.
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