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by Louise Wilson
26 October 2021
Strikes could be start of ‘long winter of school closures’ warns Labour MSP

Marijan Murat/DPA/PA Images

Strikes could be start of ‘long winter of school closures’ warns Labour MSP

A Labour MSP has called on the Scottish Government to intervene in the pay dispute between councils and school staff in order to keep schools open during winter.

Mark Griffin warned the strike action planned to coincide with COP26 “could just be the beginning of a long winter of school closures” if the deadlock was not resolved.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said the government was not party to the negotiations, as they are between trade unions and council umbrella body COSLA.

But she said avoiding industrial action is “in all of our best interests”.

Council workers are set to strike from Monday 8 November until Friday 12 November following a low-running pay dispute.

Trade union Unison Scotland said the industrial action was “deeply regrettable”, but workers were at “breaking point”.

Johanna Baxter, the union’s head of local government, said: “It is the combined failure of both COSLA and the Scottish Government to reward these key workers that has led to the situation where we have now been forced to issue notice of targeted strike action.”

School cleaning, catering and janitorial staff, as well as waste, recycling and fleet maintenance workers are set to down tools.

Griffin warned schools would not be able to stay “open and safe” without these workers.

He said: “Over half of local government workers earn below £25,000 a year and the current offer doesn’t even bring the lowest paid up to £10 per hour… The Scottish Government have intervened in pay negotiations for NHS workers and teachers, despite not being direct employers.”

He urged the cabinet secretary to meet with trade unions and fund a pay increase.

Forbes replied: “I will continue to engage and would hope that progress can be made to avert industrial action but also to ensure that there is a fair pay deal.”

She insisted the public sector pay policy in Scotland means pay is “far fairer than south of the border”.

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