Council staff strike threat: Nicola Sturgeon needs to get involved to ensure a fair and reasonable pay deal – Scotsman comment

Something of a pattern seems to be emerging in the pay disputes that have sprung up in recent months as the cost-of-living crisis has deepened.

Nicola Sturgeon may need to help cash-starved councils afford a better pay deal for staff (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon may need to help cash-starved councils afford a better pay deal for staff (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/Getty Images)

Employers make an offer dismissed as “derisory” by union leaders who then demand an inflation-busting rise. However, following much argument, rancour and disruption to, for example, rail services, both sides eventually see sense and meet somewhere in the middle.

These are difficult times but there is a general acceptance that inflation must be tackled for the good of us all and also that the burden must be shared by those who can best afford it, while shielding those on low wages.

The latest threat of strike action comes from council staff in three unions, the GMB, Unison and Unite, following the offer of a two per cent pay increase.

This is a frankly paltry sum given inflation is currently running at more than nine per cent and half of all council workers earn £25,000 a year or less. As Keir Greenaway, a senior organiser with GMB Scotland, pointed out, this would amount to “less than a tenner a week for most of them”.

If there is a strike, this could see schools forced to close and rubbish left to rot in the street, making life more difficult at a time when we really do need to all pull together.

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Surely, the Scottish Government must recognise the need to help cash-starved councils give their staff a fair rise and how this important this is, particularly for the lowest paid, to help them through months of soaring energy bills and prices in the shops.

Are they simply going to wash their hands of the affair and seek to blame the councils and the unions as rubbish piles up in the street and parents are forced to take time off work to look after their children?

Greenaway’s complaint that no meaningful discussions have taken place since March is deeply worrying. There is a problem, it should be fixed as soon as possible, and both Cosla and the Scottish Government need to be on the case.

If both employers and unions are reasonable, it should be possible to come to a reasonable deal without a lengthy dispute. If Nicola Sturgeon has other things on her mind, she needs to urgently reassess her priorities.

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