Thousands of council workers expected to be consulted on strike action

Unison said pay rates offered were ‘nowhere near’ the expectations of its members.

Local government workers are to be consulted on possible industrial action
Local government workers are to be consulted on possible industrial action (Jane Barlow/PA)

Thousands of council employees across Scotland are expected to be consulted on strike action in a dispute over pay.

Unison, the country’s largest local government union, said on Friday it had been in talks with council employers over pay rises “for many days” but the rates offered so far were “nowhere near” the expectations of its members.

It is seeking an above inflation increase in line with an aspiration for a minimum pay rate of £15 an hour for all local government workers employees by April 2026.

The union expects a formal written offer from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) “within days” but has said if there is no substantial improvement, it will be rejected outright.

Under this scenario Unison, which represents more than 85,000 council workers, will then move to the first stage of a strike ballot.

Unison local government committee chairwoman, Colette Hunter, said: “Pay talks with Cosla have been cordial.

“But asking council workers to take a real terms wage cut once again is unacceptable.

“As things stand, employers are miles away from offering anything staff are likely to accept.

“It’s clear no lessons seem to have been learned from last year’s strikes over pay.

“An offer in writing is expected very soon, but there’s little hope that a strike consultation can be avoided.

“No one wants a repeat of last year’s disruption, but it’s been made abundantly clear that staff cannot wait for months to get a fair pay offer.”

Unison Scotland’s local government lead, David O’Connor, said: “Unison hoped to have a local government pay deal agreed last month.

“But despite a pay claim being submitted at the beginning of the year, Cosla’s resorting to delaying tactics.

“Employers must understand the growing anger among council workers who are being advised to manage their expectations around pay when MSPs are set to receive a 6.7% pay increase.”

Cosla resources spokesperson, councillor Katie Hagmann, said: “For the last two Thursdays, we believed we had positive meetings with our SJC (Scottish Joint Council) trade union colleagues to discuss this year’s pay offer for the Scottish local government workforce.

“We had another useful meeting only yesterday, so it is disappointing that they have chosen to go public today, before all options have been explored.

“Learning from the last few years, we are keen to maintain a dialogue with our SJC trade unions partners, whilst we explore all avenues.

“We are close to making an offer, based on the mandate given to me by council leaders. Another meeting is being scheduled, as soon as possible and we are doing all that we can to get an offer on the table.

“It is important to reiterate that this is against the context of a flat cash settlement from the Scottish Government, which leaves very little room to manoeuvre without service reductions and job losses which we want to avoid at all costs.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for unions and local authorities as the employers.

“Ministers recognise the crucial role councils and their employees play in communities across Scotland.

“That’s why, despite UK Government cuts, this year, the Scottish Government has made available over £14 billion to local councils – a real-terms increase of 2.5% compared with the previous year.

“The Scottish Government urges all the parties involved to work together constructively to reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”