Crunch talks scheduled for next week as council strikes loom in Scotland

Crunch talks are to take place next week in a bid to avoid crippling strikes that could see hundreds of schools and nurseries across Scotland forced to shut and rubbish left piled in the streets.

Cosla, the body that represents councils, will meet with Deputy First Minister John Swinney and other ministers as it seeks extra funding for local authorities.

Unions have accused Cosla of being “missing in action” and failing to do enough.

They warned they have “legal mandates to disrupt the operation of over 1,200 schools across 16 local authorities in Scotland” as well as waste and recycling services in 25 councils.

Rubbish could be left "piling up in the streets", unions have warned

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Local government workers voted to strike after rejecting a 2 per cent pay offer from Cosla.

The council body says it is unable to offer more without additional funding from the Scottish Government.

In a letter to the Unison, GMB and Unite trade unions, Katie Hagmann, Cosla's resources spokeswoman, said leaders “wanted to recognise the value of the local government workforce and make an additional offer, contingent on funding from Scottish Government”.

She said: “We heard yesterday (Thursday) that there is the very real possibility of a meeting next week between myself, Cosla’s president, vice president, political group leaders, and the Deputy First Minister and I hope we can bring leaders together shortly after that to discuss an improved offer.

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"However, as Cosla has made clear in all communications, 2 per cent is as far as local government can go.”

Unison criticised Cosla over a lack of “meaningful engagement on pay”.

Johanna Baxter, the union’s head of local government, said: "You would have thought the prospect of imminent strike action which has the potential to cause widespread disruption to services across Scotland would have prompted some action from them – instead they seem to be missing in action.”

She added: "Cosla and Scottish Government need to confirm they are willing to try to find a solution otherwise few, if any councils, will avoid some level of disruption.”

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GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Scotland’s political leaders are sleeping on the job while tens of thousands of council workers are looking at certain working poverty when double digit inflation and eye-watering energy bills kick in this winter – unless a significantly improved pay offer that confronts this is tabled for their consultation.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has no formal role in the national local government pay negotiations, but we are working with Cosla to explore all the options available to find solutions.

"As part of this process, Deputy First Minister John Swinney and other ministers are due to meet Cosla next week.

“The Scottish Government urges all parties to continue dialogue and seek a resolution which avoids industrial action.”

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A Cosla spokesman said: “Cosla leaders are clear that they value hugely the local government workforce, which is why discussions with our trade union colleagues continue in order to reach an agreement and avoid strike action.

“As employers we have a responsibility to ensure that any pay deal offered is both sustainable and affordable and that is why we are unable to go beyond the current offer at this point. As mandated by leaders, we are currently in discussions with Scottish Government and await their response to leaders’ request for additional funding.”

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