The £300 mil­lion strike ul­ti­ma­tum

That’s what pub­lic sec­tor pay rises would cost

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose

SCOT­LAND will be blighted by strike ac­tion next year if Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay does not find al­most £300 mil­lion for bumper pub­lic sec­tor pay hikes.

Sev­eral unions have been threat­en­ing walk­outs if the Scot­tish Govern­ment does not meet their de­mands.

They want an ad­di­tional £290 mil­lion for teach­ers and other coun­cil em­ploy­ees – on top of the 3 per cent rises Mr Mackay has of­fered.

Fail­ure to meet those de­mands would mean schools close, bins go un­emp­tied and care plans for the el­derly paused, as strikes bring Scot­land to a halt early next year.

Three of the big­gest unions, rep­re­sent­ing about 150,000 coun­cil work­ers, are in dis­pute with their em­ploy­ers.

Uni­son, Unite and the GMB protested out­side a Con­ven­tion of Scot­tish Lo­cal Au­thor­i­ties (Cosla) meet­ing on Fri­day.

Now they are turn­ing their fo­cus on Mr Mackay, who will de­liver his Bud­get on De­cem­ber 12. The unions want a 6.5 per cent rise for coun­cil staff.

That would cost around £175 mil­lion – and does not even in­clude the thou­sands of coun­cil ‘craft’ work­ers, such as elec­tri­cians and join­ers, who are treated sep­a­rately in pay talks.

Mean­while, the EIS is de­mand­ing 10 per cent for teach­ers – at an ad­di­tional cost of £115 mil­lion.

Unite is also de­mand­ing £20 mil­lion to re­cruit more paramedics. The union rep­re­sents 1,400 of the 4,500 am­bu­lance ser­vice staff and has warned a fail­ure to pro­vide fund­ing could lead to their first na­tion­wide strike in 30 years.

The unions ar­gue that a decade of pay rises capped at 1 per cent has left many work­ers strug­gling to make ends meet.

Elaine Dougall, Unite’s se­nior na­tional of­fi­cer, added: ‘We have the work­ing poor in this coun­try work­ing for pub­lic ser­vices. Peo­ple are hav­ing to ac­cess food banks on a weekly ba­sis, even a daily ba­sis.’

Jo­hanna Bax­ter, head of lo­cal govern­ment at Uni­son, said: ‘Uni­son rep­re­sents 80,000 lo­cal govern­ment work­ers, from the peo­ple who care for our el­derly rel­a­tives at home to the early years work­ers look­ing af­ter our kids at school. These are some of the low­est paid work­ers across the pub­lic sec­tor.’ Drew Duffy, se­nior or­gan­iser at GMB Scot­land, said: ‘The pa­tience of our mem­bers is wear­ing thin be­cause we should be con­sult­ing now on next year’s pay of­fer.’

The Scot­tish Govern­ment tried to quell the teacher re­volt by find­ing an ad­di­tional £38 mil­lion. Not only did that fail to sat­isfy the EIS, it in­fu­ri­ated the other unions who had been told there was no more cash.

James Kelly, Scot­tish Labour’s fi­nance spokesman, said: ‘Un­der the SNP, coun­cils have faced more than £1.5 bil­lion of cuts since 2011.

‘Mean­while, work­ers de­liv­er­ing vi­tal life­line ser­vices and teach­ers have seen the value of their wages fall. That is un­ac­cept­able.’

The Scot­tish Govern­ment said: ‘Dis­cus­sions be­tween the Scot­tish Govern­ment and Cosla on next year’s lo­cal govern­ment fi­nance set­tle­ment are un­der way.

‘The out­come will be an­nounced next month.’

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