Unite the union is demanding immediate action by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, over the continuing local government pay dispute.

In a letter (see notes to editors) to both Scottish Government ministers, Unite, along with the joint trade unions, is warning that failure to resolve the pay dispute swiftly will “close schools across the country and see waste pile up on the streets.”

Last week, the trade union confirmed that it has served notice to all thirty-two Scottish local authorities. Strike ballots involving thousands of its members in schools and cleansing will now open from 10 June and close on 26 July. Strike action could begin in August as the new school term commences.

Unite, along with other local government trade unions, has rejected outright a 2 per cent pay offer from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (COSLA). Unite says the offer is derisory and, amid the deepening cost of living crisis with inflation hitting 11.1 per cent, amounts to a massive pay cut.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Scottish Government and COSLA are now facing widespread strike action which will be entirely of their own making.  They need to act on the desperate levels of local government pay for most workers. A 2 per cent pay offer when the broader cost of living is now above 11 per cent is a punishing real terms pay cut. This is not debatable - it’s a fact.

“Our members are determined to secure fair pay and they have their union’s full support in this fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government.”

It is estimated that more than half of Scotland’s 250,000 local authority workers are earning less than £25,000 a year for a 37-hour week. Unite earlier this month also warned all new council leaders at Scottish local authorities if they do not act to improve pay, they will see strikes this summer. Local government emerged as the biggest loser from the latest Scottish Government’s spending review’s with its funding frozen for the rest of the parliament.

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite industrial officer said: “Local government emerged as the biggest loser from the Scottish Government’s Spending Review with its funding frozen for the rest of the parliament. However, you can’t deliver first-class public services through pathetic pay offers and major cuts to funding for local services. It’s simply impossible. The Scottish Government and COSLA need to move significantly from the 2 per cent offer, and let’s not forget that there’s been a willingness to do this in other areas of the public sector."

By a massive 91 per cent, thousands of Unite local government workers in April confirmed that in response to COSLA’s failure to put forward a fair and decent offer that they would be prepared to take industrial action.


A recent report by the Accounts Commission identified that funding for local government has experienced a real-terms fall of 4.2% when compared to the levels of spending in 2013/14.  In contrast, the rest of the Scottish Government budget has received an increase in funding over the same period by 4.3%.


“Dear First Minister and Cabinet Secretary,

Local Government funding and SJC Pay 2022

We understand that COSLA Leaders wrote to you on 30th May 2022 requesting that an urgent meeting with you and ourselves is arranged to discuss the ongoing impact of the rising cost of living on the local government workforce and the urgent support required to ensure a revised and significantly improved pay offer is made.

We support this request and believe this should be organised as a matter of urgency.

We are now 2 months past the pay review date for SJC workers with no improvement to the derisory offer made, and rejected by us all, in March. With inflation now at a 40 year high, topping 11%, and fuel, food and electricity prices continuing to rise the longer this goes on the greater the impact on our members, the majority of whom are low paid and predominantly female.

You will be aware that we have now all served notice to local authorities across the country of our intention to conduct a statutory industrial action ballot of our members working in schools, early years, waste and recycling services. This follows consultative ballots of our memberships held earlier this year in which they voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in pursuit of an improved pay offer.

Be in no doubt about the strength of feeling that exists amongst our membership and the consequences of these statutory ballots being successful – it would close schools across the country and see waste piling up on the streets.

We look forward to hearing from you at the earliest opportunity.”

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