Trade union prepares for ballot as council staff offered “insulting” pay rise

TRADE unions are set to reject an “insulting” pay offer for council workers as the cost of living rises across the country.

Unison, GMB and Unite submitted a joint claim to Cosla, the arm’s length body which represents Scottish local authorities, calling for a minimum hourly rate of £12 and a £3000 flat rate increase for staff.

They argue that the claim, valued at £689m, represents the vital work council staff have done during the pandemic, and makes up for the decades of cuts to council budgets. Union leaders are also trying to mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living on council workers, many of whom are on low wages.

However Cosla has failed to meet their demands, offering instead a 2% flat rise and a minimum hourly wage of £9.98.

They have also refused to pay for employee’s professional development costs, for example fees for registration to the Scottish Social Services Council.

In a letter to union negotiatiors, seen by The Herald, officials said council “leaders do not consider that paying the professional costs associated with individual roles to be an equitable or fair solution.”

They added that the proposals from the unions “significantly exceeded” the “affordability limits of councils”.

The body continued: “Your claim, as you will know, represents an 11.64% increase on current pay and totals £689m.

“Combined with claims received from other bargaining groups, there is an ask of Local Government of over £1bn, which represents almost 8% of the total Local Government Settlement for 2022/23, and of which a large proportion is pay. 

“Leaders are extremely aware of the need to not only retain employees but to maintain essential services within our communities and provide the necessary support to the most vulnerable.”

Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, described Cosla’s offer as “an insult”, which would unfairly discriminate against the lower paid staff, with those on the highest wages given a larger increase.

The trade union is now preparing in the event a strike ballot is needed, if further negotiations do not succeed. 

Ms Baxter said that more than half of the council workers who are members of the unions earn below £25,000 a year, three quarters earn less than £32,000 – Scotland’s average wage – and 88% are paid less than £40,000.

She added: “COSLA’s offer would give those on the highest wages an £800 increase, whilst those on the lowest wages would only get a £500 increase. 

“Quite apart from the fact that neither is enough, the weighting of this towards the higher paid is completely misguided and will only exacerbate the endemic problem of low pay that already exists. 

“The employer must really be having a laugh if they thought any of our members would take this seriously.”  

COSLA has been contacted for comment. 

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