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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
26 September 2023
School support staff begin three-day strike across 24 local authorities

A renewed offer from local government body Cosla was unable to prevent strike action by the union | Alamy

School support staff begin three-day strike across 24 local authorities

School support staff will begin a three-day strike today in 24 of Scotland’s 32 councils. 

The industrial action will affect thousands of pupils over the next three days as members of the Unison trade union continue their pay dispute. 

Following weeks of talks, a renewed offer from local government body Cosla was unable to prevent strike action by the union. Unite and GMB have suspended strikes while members are consulted.  

Members of the unions could face crossing Unison picket lines in this dispute involving non-teaching workers such as janitors, catering staff, classroom assistants and admin staff. 

The deal includes a rise of around £2,000 per year for the lowest-paid workers and a minimum increase of about £1,900 for workers who are earning above the living wage. The living wage would rise to £11.89 from £10.85 from the offer but Unison is seeking a £15 per hour minimum rate for all local government roles.  

GMB Scotland described the offer as “not perfect but a clear improvement”. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf has urged Unison to suspend its industrial action and put the improved pay offer to its members to vote on.  

Yousaf said: “These are negotiations obviously for Cosla but we have been engaged with Cosla right throughout this process, providing additional funding, additional flexibility so more funding can be made available. 

"But it is for Cosla to lead these negotiations." 

He continued: "It is a very good offer, that is why a couple of unions have suspended strike action and will now consult members. 

"There's government involvement, government funding - it is a very good offer, and I would urge Unison, who I understand continue to have concerns, to follow the other trade unions, suspend strike action and do a consultation with their members." 

The First Minister added: "I have got tremendous respect for Unison. 

"I believe they are doing what they believe is in the best interests of their members but I would very politely suggest that with the further detail we have provided over the weekend, I am hoping there is enough to give them reassurances, that particularly for the lowest paid, but for everybody across any of the pay bands this is a very good offer indeed." 

Unison Scotland's head of local government, Johanna Baxter said: “This revised offer is far too little, too late. Strikes will therefore proceed next week. We cannot agree to a pay offer that will result in further cuts to our member's jobs and the services they provide. 

“It has taken Cosla six months to send us a revised pay offer which, for the vast majority of staff is an increase of only 0.5 per cent in-year. These are not well-paid staff, they are on less than the Scottish average wage and it is simply not acceptable. 

“Far from learning the lessons of last year’s dispute the situation has been worse this year, caused further delay to local government workers’ pay during a cost-of-living crisis, and created uncertainty for parents. This is no way to conduct industrial relations.” 

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