Unions submit claim for 6.5% pay increase for council workers

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Union leaders have insisted demands for a 6.5% pay rise for council workers are “realistic”.

Unison, Unite and the GMB want staff to have a salary increase of either £1,500 or 6.5%, depending on which is greater.

The unions submitted their pay claim for 2018/19 to local government body Cosla, saying a rise of this level was needed for workers’ pay to increase in line with inflation and to start to address the real-terms loss of earnings staff suffered when public sector pay was capped.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay fulfilled a pledge to lift the 1% pay cap in his draft Budget, but it will be councils who have to find the cash to fund an increase in staff wages.

The Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy for 2018/19 includes a guaranteed minimum increase of 3% for all public sector workers earning £30,000 a year or less.

Those earning between £30,000 and £80,000 should receive up to 2%, while any rise for those on salaries above this should be limited to £1,600, it states.

Johanna Baxter, head of local government bargaining for Unison Scotland, said it welcomed the government’s intention to lift the pay cap for public sector workers.

She said: ” Our members, working hard to deliver a good public service in local authorities across the country, should be covered by this commitment.

“This claim is therefore both realistic and in line with the Government’s stated objective of lifting the pay cap for public sector workers.”

Ms Baxter said: ” Our local government worker members have suffered a real-terms loss in pay over the past ten years of some 15%.

“It is only right therefore that this year’s pay settlement must protect workers from the sharp rise in inflation, start to reverse the many years of real-terms cuts to wages through pay restoration, and protect the lowest paid.”

She added: ” It is untenable for the Scottish Government to starve local authorities of funding when it has received a £188 million cash increase in its budget from Westminster.

“Austerity has meant £1.4 billion of efficiency savings in Scottish local government since 2012 and 30,000 people have lost their jobs in Scottish local government over the last five years.

“The remaining staff are expected to do more for less. This is understandably having an impact on staff morale and job security.

“The key to the future of local government lies with the dedicated staff who provide the services to our communities.

“This must be recognised and staff properly rewarded through this pay round and in the future in redressing the balance of earnings against the cost of living.”

Cosla resources spokeswoman Councillor Gail Macgregor said: “We met with the trade unions today. This was the first meeting in relation to this year’s pay award.

“We will take the claim away and consider it carefully, obviously taking full cognisance that, as employers, our pay awards have to be both sustainable and affordable.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Pay and other employment issues for local government staff are matters for local authorities.

“Despite the UK Government’s cuts to the Scottish budget, we have continued to treat local government very fairly.

“The 2018-19 local government finance settlement foresees an increase both in revenue and capital (11%) investment as part of a wider package of measures.

“Together with the additional power to increase council tax by up to 3% (worth around £77 million next year), this will generate an increase of 1.6% in the overall resources to support services.”

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