Congress backs council workers’ fight for a decent pay rise

Mark Ferguson
Mark Ferguson

STUC Congress stood four square behind council workers in their condemnation of CoSLA’s derisory pay offer, as they overwhelmingly backed an emergency composite from UNISON, Unite and GMB. All three unions are balloting members calling for a rejection of the pay offer.

The General Council will issue a statement fully supporting the Local Government workforce. They will raise the matter with COSLA and the Scottish Government; and will also raise it with candidates in the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Moving the motion, UNISON Scotland’s Chair of Local Government, Mark Ferguson told Congress that the recent offer made by COSLA to Scottish Joint Council Conditioned Employees “is nothing more than a slap in the face for the incredible response to the COVID Pandemic.”

“Local Government workers responded to the challenge, often placing themselves in danger to support and care for our local communities – which has undoubtedly saved many thousands of lives,” said Mark.

He pointed out that 2020/21 has been a year like no other, a year that we have all had to make sacrifices to help save as many lives as possible.

“Our members providing public and community services have shown how much our communities need and rely on us. Despite over ten years of austerity we have risen to the challenge of the pandemic.”

He spoke of how thousands of workers adapted to new ways of working by taking into their own homes the employers’ equipment in order for services to continue.

He reminded that our frontline workers such as social care and care at home staff have continued to provide vital and lifesaving care to their clients, whilst maintaining a safe environment.

He also recognised the brilliant response from our members in environmental health, trading standards, registration, housing, schools and early years, social work, committee services, culture and leisure, business support, finance staff, waste management and many more across councils.

He spoke about the shortage of cleaning staff early on in the pandemic because of the cuts.

“This role has been vital in the recovery process and we must not allow this predominantly low paid female workforce to be left behind again,” warned Mark.

He pointed out that the employers own figures show that 55% of the local government workforce earn less that £25,000 a year FTE – predominantly low paid women who are likely to be part-time or multi-contract workers.

“Despite all of this COSLA simply lifted the Scottish Government’s Public Sector Pay Policy and offered it to our Local Government members – a policy that the Scottish Government themselves have already breached,” slammed Mark.

“To add further insult, the £500 covid reward payment has created division due to the eligibility criteria set by the Scottish Government.

“Employers have also refused to pay the allowable tax-free payment of £6.00 per week for those working from home and other working expenses incurred by such as our social care workers who could not access public transport and had to use taxis etc. at huge cost.”

He referred to UNISON Scotland’s COVID survey of over 12, 000 members and the issues it has highlighted including the adverse impact on their mental health and well-being.

“Our members have told us that after the year they have had, pay and reward is their number one issue,” said Mark.

Calling for STUC support Mark warned, “It is without doubt that local government is no longer the poor relation of the public sector – we are now the distant and forgotten about family member.”

At the time of publication, the formal result of the vote was not in but there was no dissent in the debate.

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