Call for pay deal to avert strike action
Opposition councillors have called on the Scottish Government to increase funding to help struggling workers on the brink of strike action.
On Friday deputy first minister - and Perthshire North MSP - John Swinney announced an extra £140 million of funding to make an improved offer to those delivering council services.
But the leaders of PKC’s two largest opposition groups believe the offer is not enough to avoid strike action which could close local schools.
Thousands of workers across Scotland rejected an offer of a two per cent pay increase offer and voted for industrial action.
Tayside Contracts staff in Perth and Kinross schools are among those who could walk out. Tayside Contracts provides catering, cleaning, janitorial and school crossing patrol services to the area’s schools.
Union leaders say the cost of living crisis is leaving lower paid workers delivering council services struggling to make ends meet.
The current UK rate of inflation is 9.4 per cent and forecast to rise to 13 per cent later this year.
In May GMB Scotland’s senior organiser Keir Greenaway called for the two per cent pay offer to be“vastly improved”to avoid turning a“crisis into a catastrophe”.
He said:“A pay rise of just two per cent for the workers earning under £25,000 a year is worth no more than a tenner a week. It will turn a crisis into a catastrophe for many working families.”
Announcing the additional funding Mr Swinney - who has stepped in as finance secretary while Kate Forbes is on maternity leave - said stumping up the extra cash would mean the Scottish Government “making financial sacrifices”.
He said:“It involves us changing programmes and changing timetables for programmes, but we recognise that we’ve got to work with local authorities to put forward an improved settlement offer for council staff.”
But PKC’s Conservative group leader John Duff and Lib Dem group leader Peter Barrett say councils need more to achieve a pay settlement.
At a COSLA meeting in June council leaders voted to make a revised pay increase offer of five per cent “contingent on additional funding being provided by the Scottish Government”.
Highland Perthshire councillor John Duff said:“The continual underfunding of councils over many years by the Scottish Government - despite record UK government budget allocations - is at the heart of this matter.
“Local authorities are already facing significant budget deficits and we have been told by the SNP Government that our budgets will be further cut with no prospect of any increase for the next five years.
“The additional £140million - while welcome - is likely to be insufficient to resolve this situation and will probably result in industrial action becoming a reality.
“Unless the Scottish Government ups its offer by quite some margin, unfortunately, the final pay settlement may only be affordable through job losses and cuts to services.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said:“We are aware of the outcomes of the ballots for industrial action and are continuing to monitor the situation.
“Pay negotiations are the responsibility of COSLA and they are meeting again this week.”
COSLA confirmed that talks were ongoing.