Local Government Trade Unions reject COSLA pay offer

The Joint Trade Unions representing the bulk of local government workers in Scotland have today written to COSLA to reject their pay offer.

The three trade unions will now ballot their members with this recommendation and on what action they may wish to take in securing an improved offer.

The Joint Trade Unions had previously given COSLA a deadline of the 1st April, the normal implementation date of any pay increase, to present an improved offer, noting that the current offer was not made until 15th March, some three months after submission of the pay claim, leaving little time to engage in meaningful negotiations prior to the implementation date.

The Joint Trade Unions state that local government workers have gone above and beyond in their response to the Covid pandemic – keeping local services going in the most difficult of circumstances. COSLA have frequently praised their efforts and previously committed to ensuring that issues of reward and recognition would be addressed through these pay negotiations. The Joint Trade Unions do not believe they have been.

The offer:
• Falls far short of the flat rate or % increase outlined in our claim.
• Does little to address issues of low pay which have become endemic following a decade of austerity.
• Contains no provision for restoring pay levels to pre-austerity levels.
• Contains no provisions to pay the registration fees of workers who are required to maintain a regulatory registration to undertake their role or any other costs associated with undertaking their role.
• Contains no commitment to explore a no-detriment reduction in the working week or any other measure to address the increased demands placed on our members or their ability to maintain a work-life balance.
• Contains so assessment of the pay gap against any of the protected characteristics (something that could easily have been prepared and submitted to the trade unions in the months since the submission of our claim and in advance of our meeting today to help inform our discussions).

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, said: “According to COSLA’s own figures 55% of the Scottish Local Government workforce earns less than £25k per annum – that’s over 100,000 workers earning significantly below the average wage of £32,000 per annum. The current offer does not address the issue of endemic low pay for these workers.

Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care. Yet to date they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough.”

Wendy Dunsmore, Regional Officer, Unite said: “The current pay offer is more like a slap in the face rather than a clap for local government workers. It’s particularly infuriating that social care workers who have helped keep our loved ones safe and supported at home, and helped prevent hospitalisation while our NHS was stretched beyond capacity, are not being recognised.

Homeless workers, school workers keeping hubs open, refuse workers keeping our streets and homes clean, totally snubbed. The shocking reality is that more than half of all local government workers earn less than £25,000 a year with the majority those being predominantly women. All these workers have stepped up and gone beyond the call of duty, many of them literally putting their lives on the lines. It’s high time for COSLA and the next Scottish Government to do likewise or they shouldn’t be forgiven.”.

Drew Duffy, Senior Organiser, GMB said: “Local Government workers have went above and beyond the call of duty for over 12 months now and up to now all that has been offered to the low paid workforce in councils amounts to less than £10 per week. GMB members are tired and feel undervalued so we will be asking our members across Scotland to reject this derisory offer over the next few weeks. We want to send a message along with all the trade union members that politicians must do more to value our members and that starts with a fair pay offer for these Covid heroes”.

Notes to editors
• The Joint Trade Unions representing the bulk of Local Government Workers are UNISON, Unite and the GMB.
• You can read the Joint Trade Union’s response to COSLA’s offer here: https://www.unison-scotland.org/tu-response-010421/
• You can read the SJC 2021 Pay claim here: https://www.unison-scotland.org/wp-content/uploads/SJC-Pay-Claim-2021.pdf
• You can read the COSLA pay offer here: https://www.unison-scotland.org/wp-content/uploads/Letter-of-Offer-12.3.21-SJC.doc

For further information contact:
Johanna Baxter, UNISON head of local government: 07817 120 894
Drew Duffy, Senior Organiser, GMB: 07912 560 806
Wendy Dunsmore, Regional Officer, Unite: 07764 655756