UNISON condemns ‘slap in the face’ for Scottish local government workers

Scottish unions write joint letter condemning Scottish Government’s failure to provide funding for proper pay rise

The trade unions representing 100,000 local government workers across Scotland have written to the Scottish Government condemning its decision not to provide additional funding to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to improve the local government pay offer.

UNISON, Unite and GMB also hit out at reports that, in their meeting with COSLA, government ministers allegedly argued that local government workers were “not on a par with health workers” and so could not expect a similar offer.

All three unions are currently preparing for formal industrial action ballots on local government pay, after their members overwhelmingly rejected the offer made by COSLA in March.

Subsequent negotiations have stalled, with COSLA arguing that it does not have sufficient funds to improve the offer unless the Scottish Government gives it additional money, and the government arguing in turn that it has ‘no locus’ in the discussions.

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, said: “If these comments are true they are a disgrace and nothing short of a slap in the face to every single local government worker across Scotland.

“For government ministers to stand on their doorsteps and clap homecare workers for their pandemic response, but then in private say they are ‘not on a par’ with their colleagues in health is the height of hypocrisy and disrespect.

“If it hadn’t been for these workers, our NHS would have been overwhelmed, our children left without an education and our most vulnerable left alone and without care in their own homes. These workers have put their own lives on the line and have done so on some of the lowest wages in the public sector.”

Ms Baxter added: “The Scottish Government are able to find money when it suits them – pitting worker against worker with their ‘COVID reward payments’ – but the constant is that local government workers are always forgotten.

“There should be no ‘hierarchy of the deserving’ amongst public sector workers in Scotland and local government workers deserve better than being used as a political football between the Scottish Government and COSLA”.

The unions’ pay claim for Scotland includes a £2,000 flat payment or 6%, whichever is the greater, across all pay points; a separate payment towards pay restoration; and an underpinning minimum rate of pay of £10.50 an hour.

COSLA’s current offer is 2% for staff earning £25-40,000 and 1% for higher earners. The pay award for the NHS in Scotland is for an average 4% increase.

While tensions in Scotland escalate, UNISON is urging the local government employers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to enter negotiations to improve their current pay offer of 1.5%, which the union deems “insulting” in the context of its claim for a 10% increase.

Read more: Scotland local government pay ballot