Teachers union to ballot members on industrial action as bin strikes spread further across Scotland

Teachers across Scotland have been told to reject a 5 per cent pay rise and will be balloted on potential strike action as Scotland’s summer of discontent continues to spread throughout the public sector.

Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, said it was recommending teachers reject the offer and asked whether they support industrial action up to and including strike action.

However, no dates for potential action have been outlined by the union.

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It comes as all primary schools and nurseries in Scotland’s largest city are to close for three days next month, as council workers step up strike action in a dispute over pay.

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Glasgow City Council announced all its nurseries, primaries and additional support for learning (ASL) schools will be closed when workers go out on strike from September 6 to 8.

That will see staff such as cleaners, janitors and catering staff walk out, along with early years workers and support for learning workers.

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Two-thirds of Scottish councils will be impacted by strikes in education and waste services over the next month after Unite confirmed additional local authorities would take industrial action.

Talks are continuing between unions, local authorities and the Scottish Government, with a meeting having taken place on Thursday afternoon.

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Overflowing bins in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh where cleansing workers from the City of Edinburgh Council are on the fourth day of eleven days of strike action.

While councils are the employers of the striking workers, the local authorities rely on Scottish Government funding for a significant portion of their annual budgets, budgets which have been cut in real terms year-on-year.

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It is understood local authorities may be given more flexibility around how they spend cash received from the Government, which is ringfenced for specific priorities.

This could free up money to fund an improved pay offer, but details of how this might happen and where the funds will be taken from is yet to be agreed.

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Unions rejected a 5 per cent pay offer from Cosla – the representative body of councils – earlier this week, but the Government has refused to provide further money to improve the offer.

Wendy Dunsmore, industrial officer at the union, said the strike action was a direct response to the “abject failure” of Cosla and the Government to make an acceptable pay offer.

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Unite said five more councils – Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Fife, and North Ayrshire – would join the waste services strikes taking place between September 6 and 13.

Six councils – Angus, Dundee, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, and South Lanarkshire – are also scheduled to join Glasgow in taking action within schools and early years provision between September 6 and 9.

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Thousands more waste and recycling workers who are members of the GMB union will also strike in 16 council areas between Friday and Monday, as well as September 7 and 10.

Ms Dunsmore said: “It’s a disgrace that schools and early years services now face closure, causing further disruption to families.

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"The politicians need to get a grip of this situation, which they have let happen due to their politicking and stalling.

"It’s time for the politicians to realise the gravity of this dispute and take responsibility before this situation dramatically escalates.”

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GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway warned: “Aspirational proposals from political leaders won’t suspend these strikes and they won’t put a penny more in workers’ pockets to confront this rapidly deteriorating cost-of living crisis.

“GMB members are clear that they are not prepared to accept working poverty as an inevitability and their strike actions are a direct response to the failure of political leaders to realise this.”

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Teachers could also join the strike, with the EIS set to ballot its members in coming weeks.

Andrea Bradley, the union’s general secretary, said the initial 2 per cent rise offer was “paltry”, followed by an “insulting” 3.5 per cent offer.

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"Now, teachers’ employers are proposing a 5 per cent offer that is still well below the current RPI inflation rate of 12.3 per cent,” she said.

"In real terms, this is no offer at all.

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"Rather, it is amounts to an over 7 per cent pay cut for Scotland’s teachers and that is something that we will never accept.

"With the cost of living continuing to soar, and with inflation projected to rise even higher to record levels in the year ahead, Cosla and the Scottish Government must come up with a much fairer deal for Scotland’s teachers.”

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The Scottish Government said on Thursday morning that it had no “formal role” in the negotiations, but that it was continuing to work “collaboratively” with Cosla and encouraged unions and councils to “continue meaningful dialogue”.

It has already pledged £140m to help pay for higher pay rises, but deputy first minister John Swinney indicated any further money from Government would result in pain for other priority areas.

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A spokesperson said: “All areas of the public sector are having to make challenging savings to stay within budget.

"The UK Government has cut the Scottish Government’s budget and not adjusted it for inflation, exacerbating the financial situation for both government and councils.

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"Nevertheless, we will do what we can within the resources available to us to support a revised offer in the face of the cost-of-living emergency.”

The fifth episode of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, is out now.

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It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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