Scotland school and waste service strikes called off after ‘credible’ pay offer

Unison, GMB and Unite suspend industrial action day after Nicola Sturgeon hosted talks

A wave of strikes across waste services and schools in Scotland has been called off after a “credible” new pay offer.

Hundreds of schools and nurseries were set to close over three days next week as support staff joined industrial action, along with a second wave of strikes by refuse workers that had already seen bins overflowing and piles of accumulated rubbish in Scotland’s major cities.

The breakthrough came after Nicola Sturgeon hosted talks between council leaders and unions on Thursday following sharp criticism that the first minister was not sufficiently engaged with the crisis.

The Unison, GMB and Unite unions confirmed on Friday they had suspended their industrial action while they consult their members on the new offer, and that they are recommending the deal is accepted.

Unions had rejected an improved pay offer on Monday, saying it failed to benefit the lowest-paid staff, and warned of a “winter of discontent”.

While the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the SNP-led umbrella group for Scotland’s 32 councils, represents council employers, opposition politicians and union officials have urged the Scottish government to take more responsibility for the impact of its cuts to council funding.

On Friday afternoon, Unison stated that the first minister’s direct involvement in the negotiations was “a primary reason for the breakthrough”.

The new offer consists of a flat rate fully consolidated offer of £2,000 for those earning up to £20,500, equivalent to an increase of about 10% to 11% for the lowest paid, estimated to make up about 18% of the total workforce.

It further includes a similarly consolidated £1,925 offer for those earning up to £39,000, the equivalent to an increase of 8% for those earning about £24,000.

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite’s lead negotiator for local government, welcomed the new offer, saying: “The offer on the table is fully consolidated and as such there will be more cash in the pot going forward for local government workers. It provides a degree of security for the lowest paid with a flat rate offer of £2,000 which is an uplift worth around 10-11% . We now have a credible offer which our local government representatives can recommend to the membership for acceptance.”

Unite has estimated that trade union negotiators secured an extra £460m from local government since the dispute in waste services began in Edinburgh on 18 August.

Johanna Baxter, Unison head of local government, said the offer was a victory for union members.

“It is only through the collective action of our members in school and early years staff threatening strike action, and our waste and recycling workers taking action, that we have forced these extra funds out of government and the employer. Our members’ message was clear and unequivocal – Unison’s local government members are no longer prepared to be treated as the poor relations of the public sector. They will stand up, speak up and organise to win change together.”


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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