The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Autumn of discontent

Council staff, nurses and teachers could ALL take action over pay


TENS of thousands of workers are threatenin­g to strike in an ‘autumn of discontent’, which would see the country grind to a halt.

The most devastatin­g industrial action in decades would lead to schools shutting, rubbish piling up and crucial services closing.

Just as Scotland starts to reopen after the 18-month Covid crisis, a major dispute between SNP Ministers and trade unions threatens to slam it shut.

Local authority staff, nurses and teachers are all locked in pay disputes with council and government chiefs, and the threat of the worst strike action since the 1978-79 ‘winter of discontent’ – which helped bring down Jim Callaghan’s Labour government – looms large.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, SNP Ministers joined the public in standing on their doorsteps and applauding essential workers who kept the country moving. But now unions Unison, Unite and GMB say gratitude has been forgotten, with offers of a pay rise of £800 or 2 per cent for most workers.

They are demanding a 6 per cent hike or an additional £2,000 in pay packets, whichever is higher.

Scottish Tory local government spokesman Miles Briggs said: ‘It is clear that 14 years of SNP underfundi­ng local government in Scotland is coming home to roost.

‘Council administra­tions are facing mounting pressure over pay and the economic recovery of local services following the pandemic, which is pointing towards an autumn of discontent in local government.’

The SNP has been accused of hammering local authoritie­s with cuts of almost £1 billion over eight years, through failing to properly fund its council tax freeze policy. Mr Briggs added: ‘Ministers have stripped our local councils of powers and funding. They have raided local government budgets for pet projects.

‘Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will only have themselves to blame if we see an autumn of discontent.’ Last night, a spokesman for Unite said: ‘Preparatio­n for the ballot is under way and should be finalised and issued in mid-August. If members vote to strike, there will be major disruption as waste won’t be collected, schools may have to close, and other services will either stop or be badly impacted.’

Meanwhile, nursing union bosses warned that a failure to meet the RCN’s 12.5 per cent pay increase demand would plunge the NHS into crisis as their members are ‘exhausted’. The EIS said the deal on the table for teachers must be ‘increased dramatical­ly’.

Cosla, the umbrella group representi­ng councils, gave no indication of plans to increase its pay offer.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The Scottish Government is not involved in the local government pay negotiatio­ns. Pay settlement­s for council workers are a matter for Cosla.’

‘Raided local government budgets for pet projects’

 ??  ?? TROUBLED TIMES: Unions predict similar disruption to 1978-79 walkouts
TROUBLED TIMES: Unions predict similar disruption to 1978-79 walkouts

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