School strikes Scotland: Unison warns of more strikes and calls on Humza Yousaf to go to picket line after dismissing latest pay offer as 'not good enough'
A leading union has called on Humza Yousaf to meet its members on the picket lines and has warned more strikes “will be on the cards” as it stressed a “significantly” better offer was needed.
The warning from Unison was issued as hundreds of schools in 24 local authorities shut on Tuesday, with many of them to stay closed for three days. Non-teaching staff such as janitors, cleaners, cooks and admin staff have gone on strike over pay.
Lilian Macer, Unison’s Scottish secretary, said the latest offer from employers was “too little, too late and too vague”. And she warned of further strike action unless a deal is reached and called on First Minister Humza Yousaf to get involved in negotiations.
However, Unison said it was continuing with the planned industrial action as the new pay offer was still not good enough.
Mark Ferguson, Unison’s local government chair, told the BBC: “We don’t think it’s good enough. It’s not just about pay, but a lack of funding to local government for over a decade, and we want to make a stand.”
The stance comes after the First Minister urged Unison to call off the strikes.
Mr Yousaf said: “It is a very good offer. That is why a couple of unions, of course, have suspended strike action and will now consult members.
“There’s government involvement, government funding – it is a very good offer and I would urge Unison, who I understand continue to have concerns, to follow the other trade unions, suspend strike action and do a consultation with their members.”
Mr Ferguson said in response: “The First Minister has called on Unison to suspend strike action. If the First Minister wants to suspend it, our doors are open, he can contact us at any time. I’ll be picketing in Renfrewshire, he can come at any time.”
Mr Ferguson added it was “unclear” where the money for this new pay offer was coming from.
He said: “More money has been made available, but where is this money coming from? That’s what’s important. We don’t want to trade pay for cuts or cuts to jobs and services that will impact on communities.”
He said 80 per cent of their local government members were women, and work part time or term time, meaning the new pay offer “means something very different to them”.
Mr Ferguson added: “This offer is below the rate of inflation and certainly doesn’t address the issues in recruitment and retention across local government.”
However, Cosla, the council umbrella body, said it had been clear on where the money in this new pay offer had come from.
Katie Hagmann, Cosla’s resources spokeswoman and an SNP councillor in Dumfries and Galloway, said: “It is exceedingly disappointing to be in this position and there will be an impact on our young people. There were two letters sent to the unions with clear, consistent messaging.
“A direct quote – we are able to provide reassurances that additional resources have been identified with no detriment to jobs or services. This was clearly given to Unison over the weekend. The money has come from reprofiling and reprioritising the existing funding and where there has been a predicted underspend.”
At Portobello High School in Edinburgh, around 30 school support staff stood on the picket lines with placards emblazoned with slogans such as “pay up for council staff”, “no pay, no play” and “we are worth more”.
Pupil support assistant and Unison member Katherine Bull said: “When we heard about the offer from our union, they recommended we reject. They don’t think it goes far enough – it’s baby steps when we need to be taking giant leaps.”
Highland Council said 27 of its schools were expected to remain open while Glasgow City Council said high schools would be open for S4-S6 pupils only on Tuesday, with a reassessment planned that day on whether any more schools and nurseries can open for the following two days.
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