Trade union demands Scottish Government intervention

Unite the union today (1 June) demanded that the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, directly intervenes in the brewing local government pay dispute following what it describes as a ‘collapse’ in negotiations with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (COSLA).

The trade union is warning that it is actively preparing to ballot its local government membership, and a number of key events across Scotland including the Cycling World Championships to be held in Glasgow (3-13 August) could be under threat of cancellation unless the pay dispute is resolved.

The trade unions representing local government workers have jointly condemned the behaviour by COSLA at a meeting of the Scottish Joint Council (SJC) held on 30th May 2023.

At the meeting, councillors voted against a trade union motion which called for the SJC - the negotiating body for the main local government workforce - to approach the Scottish Government for additional funds to improve upon the current 5 per cent pay offer for 2023.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Scottish Government needs to intervene because COSLA for the second year in a row seems utterly incapable of sorting out a fair pay offer. The reality is that the current 5 per cent offer needs to be significantly improved or we will have no choice but to ballot our members on strike action. Unite will always stand up for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government, and just like last year in the end we will win for our members.”

Unite has criticised COSLA’s failure to approach the Scottish Government to financially support a fairer pay offer for local authority workers as repeating the ‘mistakes of last summer’.

The Scottish Government eventually stepped in after widespread industrial action through the intervention of the then First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon. It is estimated that the accepted offer in 2022 resulted in a £600m package being brought forward by COSLA and the Scottish Government.

In May, the trade union which spearheaded last year’s local government pay dispute, revealed that its members emphatically rejected the current 5 per cent offer for 2023 by 84 per cent in a consultative ballot.

Graham McNab, Unite industrial officer said: “There is a real question over the ability of COSLA to even negotiate a pay settlement for local government workers. The body is in danger of repeating exactly the same mistakes of last summer only for us then to end up with the First Minister’s intervention to fund an improved package after widespread strike action.

Unite is now actively preparing to ballot our members across Scottish local authorities. The reality is that talks with COSLA have collapsed. This is going to require intervention by the Scottish Government in one way or another. We urge them to do so before any strike action takes place.”