West Lothian Council staff consider strike action over pay dispute

By John-Paul Clark

West Lothian Council staff are threatening strike action over a pay dispute.

Unision, Scotland’s largest local government union, has started to issue formal industrial action ballot papers in a dispute over pay.

COSLA, the umbrella body representing council employers, had previously offered staff earning less than £25,000 a flat rate rise of £800.

Last week COSLA came back with a revised offer of £850 – working out at approximately 97p per week for the lowest paid staff.

The union says council staff who have kept services and schools running throughout the pandemic deserve a proper pay rise. They say the latest pay offer falls far short of their pay claim and does little to address low pay which has become endemic following a decade of austerity.

The trade union says that councils have suffered a decade of cuts and jobs losses, and that staff have received year-on-year pay cuts. It has meant delivering services has become increasingly stressful for the workforce.

Pressure is mounting on both COSLA leaders and the Scottish Government to find an urgent resolution to this issue. COSLA leaders are meeting again on Friday (August 27). UNISON intends to take targeted strike action, which means select groups of workers will be balloted.

These include members working in school cleaning, school catering, school janitorial as well as those working in waste and recycling services.

Stevie Dunn, Branch Secretary of UNISON West Lothian said: “The last 18 months have taken an enormous toll on council staff who have been working flat out for no reward. Their courage and sacrifices need to be rewarded, yet the employers are failing to recognise their efforts. “These workers, mostly women, are amongst the lowest paid in the country and have seen their pay drop substantially in recent years. The pay offer falls far short of their colleagues in the NHS and local government workers are left feeling exhausted and undervalued. Scotland’s council workers deserve fair pay.”

Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, said: “We’ve all relied on council staff to keep our communities clean and safe, protect the most vulnerable and to work in our schools throughout successive lockdowns to allow others to work. “Without these workers going above and beyond to keep services running over the past year their colleagues in the NHS would have been left without childcare, our mortuaries would have been overwhelmed, our children would have been left without an education and our elderly would have been left without care. Yet to date they have received no reward or recognition of their efforts at all. It’s simply not good enough – our council staff are worth more.”

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