Union warns of further strike action by school support staff in Scotland


School support staff could take further strike action in a dispute over pay, a union has warned as it called for more clarity over the latest offer from employers.

Unison members in 24 local authorities in Scotland walked out for three days this week, leading to school closures across much of the country.

The union said the latest offer from council umbrella body Cosla was “too little, too late and too vague”.

In a letter to Cosla, it called for a copy of the revised pay scales which would apply to the latest offer, saying staff need the information to help them decide whether to accept it.

Mark Ferguson, Unison Scotland chair of the local government committee, said: “For Cosla to tell council staff to ‘sign up now and we’ll tell you how much you’ll get later’ just adds insult to the injury of the ongoing wait for a pay deal that should have been in wage packets in April.

“Most council staff want to know ‘what does this offer mean for me?’, but if the pay scales aren’t published, it’s impossible to know.

“Cosla must explain. And if it has any confidence its offer is fair, it would be putting pay scales on billboards rather than keeping them secret.”

Unison said its local government committee will meet early next week to discuss and agree the next stage of industrial action, with the details released in due course.

Industrial strike
Unison members walked out of Scotland’s schools for three days this week (Jane Barlow/PA)

Unite and the GMB suspended strike action after the new deal was offered last week, opting to ballot their members, but Unison went ahead with a three-day walkout from Tuesday this week.

It emerged on Wednesday that money used to compensate the survivors of historic abuse and provide school-level funding will be “re-profiled” as part of Cosla’s £80 million pay offer to non-teaching staff.

Scottish Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said there will be “no detriment” to either scheme as money is moved around within Government budgets to cover the pay deal.

Unison Scotland’s head of local government Johanna Baxter said: “The union will consult its council workers on the latest offer.

“But Cosla must come clean about how the offer will affect revised pay scales and clarify precisely where the money will come from.

“There’s considerable concern that channelling money from the Redress Scheme and Pupil Equity Funds will affect jobs and the services provided to vulnerable children.”

Cosla has said the new offer represents a minimum wage increase of £2,006 for those on the Scottish Government’s living wage and a minimum increase of £1,929 for workers who are earning above the living wage.

The living wage of £10.85 an hour will rise to £11.89 under the new offer, equivalent to a 9.6% increase – but Unison has said that remains a “real terms pay cut” and “below the rate of inflation”.

A Cosla spokesperson said: “Cosla has made every effort to avert these strikes – we have listened to our trade unions, met their asks and worked with Scottish Government to put an incredibly strong half a billion pound pay package on the table.

“Strikes are in nobody’s interests and benefit no-one, least of all children and young people and their families.

“Two out of the three trade unions suspended their action and have agreed to put the offer to their members – I would ask Unison to reconsider pressing ahead with this damaging action and allow their members to consider this offer.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions. The Scottish Government and Cosla have committed to respect this negotiating arrangement as part of the Verity House Agreement.

“We would encourage those involved to continue negotiations in the hope that a resolution can be found.

“We have worked constructively in partnership with Cosla and councils to find a solution, facilitated by an additional £80 million of funding and flexibility from the Scottish Government.

“As we have said, there will be no detrimental impact on jobs or services, including on Pupil Equity Funding levels or operation of the redress scheme, as a result of this additional funding.

“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government had already provided £155 million in 2023-24 to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, and provided assurances over funding in 2024-25.”


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