The £300 million strike ultimatum
That’s what public sector pay rises would cost
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.’