Fresh wave of strikes threatened to close Scottish schools after summer holidays

The move comes amid the threat of a strike by bin collectors

A fresh wave of strike action by council workers could close schools and nurseries across Scotland just a few weeks into the new term.

Unison, the nation’s largest public sector union, said it had written to all local authorities in Scotland to inform them strike ballots will be issued to more than 38,000 workers in schools, early years and family centres.

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It comes amid the latest dispute over pay, and could lead to walkouts across Scotland in early September.

Industrial action involving non-teaching staff such as janitors and catering workers previously caused disruption at schools and nurseries last year, until a pay deal was reached in November.

Unison is already balloting waste, recycling and street-cleaning staff, in a vote closing on Wednesday next week.

Bin collectors from both the GMB and Unite unions have voted for strike action after rejecting a pay offer, threatening a repeat of scenes which saw rubbish pile up during the Edinburgh Fringe in 2022. It is part of a wider pay dispute affecting all council workers in Scotland.

Unison said council umbrella body Cosla had made a two-stage offer, which would operate over an 18-month period. This would give a 2.2 per cent increase for the first six months and an additional 2 per cent for the subsequent 12 months, until September next year.

Colette Hunter, the union’s local government committee chair, said: “Cosla’s lack of engagement on pay is bitterly disappointing.

“Local government workers firmly rejected Cosla’s offer in a consultation earlier in the year. There should have been talks way before now. It doesn’t show any great desire to resolve this dispute.

“Local government workers were due a pay rise at the beginning of April and are becoming increasingly disillusioned. They feel undervalued, and the delays will do nothing to fix the recruitment and retention issues we have within local government.”

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David O’Connor, Unison’s lead for local government, said: “No one wants to take strike action. It’s always a last resort.

“Cosla’s proposal falls short of Unison’s pay claim. It’s also less than the offer made to the lowest-paid local government staff south of the border.

“Workers are simply asking for a pay deal that addresses below-inflation pay settlements, which have reduced the value of staff wages by a quarter over the past 14 years. Council workers deserve to be paid wages reflecting their essential roles.”

Last year, industrial action had led to walkouts and school closures in multiple council areas between September and early November.

Teaching unions are also thought to be moving closer to a ballot on industrial action, after rejecting recent pay offers.

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “Education in Scotland is set to be plunged into yet more chaos if the SNP fail to prevent strike action.

“These dedicated frontline staff work tirelessly to give children in Scotland the best possible start in life – they deserve a fair deal.

“The SNP must stop dodging responsibility and work with councils and trade unions to negotiate a fair deal and prevent strikes.” Cosla has been approached for comment.

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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.

“While we respect workers’ rights, no one’s interests are served by industrial action, which will harm communities and people. The Scottish Government urges all parties involved to work together constructively and reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”




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