Strikes Scotland: Council workers back vote on strikes if imminent pay offer is too low

A ballot of GMB Scotland members revealed huge support for a formal vote on industrial action

Council workers in one of the main trade unions in local government have overwhelmingly backed a vote on strikes if an imminent pay offer is too low.

A ballot of GMB Scotland members across all local authorities revealed huge support for a formal vote on industrial action to secure an acceptable offer. The vote comes as Scotland’s council leaders prepare to make an offer to staff, with speculation suggesting it will be less than three per cent.

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GMB Scotland announced the result of a two-week consultative ballot, revealing 97 per cent of members voting across Scotland’s local authorities want a formal vote on strike action if any offer is not “credible”. Trade union leaders previously called for an urgent intervention from the Scottish Government as they warned the clock is ticking on looming strike action.

Council strikes could still be back on the agendaCouncil strikes could still be back on the agenda
Council strikes could still be back on the agenda

Last week, Shona Robison, the deputy first minister and finance secretary, told The Scotsman she hopes to avoid industrial action by local authority workers in the months ahead.

However, she said their pay was a matter for councils – a comment trade union bosses dismissed as “completely disingenuous and misleading”.

Schools were among public facilities to shut last year amid a wave of strikes, as janitors, cleaners, classroom assistants and cooking staff took part in widespread industrial action.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser in public services, said the pay offer was already too late and seemed certain to be too low. He called for urgent discussion between councils, unions and government ministers on how a fair pay offer can be funded.

Shona RobisonShona Robison
Shona Robison

“Our members will rightly be asking why our politicians believe they deserve a rise of more than 6 per cent while council workers delivering vital frontline services do not,” he said. “The hypocrisy would be staggering if it was not so entirely predictable.

“We hoped council leaders might have learned lessons from last year and act with greater urgency. That has not happened and the same mistakes are being made, with the same lack of action leading to the same rising support for industrial action.

“Our members have now made clear these unnecessary delays will no longer be tolerated. We have no time to waste and if the offer, whenever it comes, is not credible, we will move swiftly to a formal ballot on industrial action. Councillors and ministers cannot say they have not been warned.”

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Mr Greenaway said council workers only wanted to be paid fairly. He said: “Our members no longer have the patience to listen to council leaders pleading poverty while refusing to ask ministers for the money needed to pay staff fairly.

“They also have no time to listen to Scottish Government ministers claiming it is nothing to do with them after they announced a council tax freeze without warning or consultation. This has become an annual pantomime of buck passing and blame shifting between the councils and the Government and our members have seen it too many times before.

“Without joint talks right now, without funding for a fair, negotiated pay award, industrial action in our local authorities will be inevitable.”

A spokeswoman for Cosla, the council umbrella body, said local authority leaders would meet on Friday to consider a report on pay claims.



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