Care staff ‘left in limbo’ over pay rise balloted on strike action

Council workers are to be balloted on strike action after being left “in limbo” as local authority leaders delay making a pay offer, a union has said.

GMB Scotland and Unite’s care worker members employed by Scottish councils will receive a ballot on strike action next week, with the vote to close on June 19.

Unison will also be balloting its refuse and recycling worker members in the coming days, with members in schools and social care to be balloted later in the summer.

The unions have accused council leaders of time wasting and creating uncertainty among workers.

GMB Scotland members have already voted overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot to back industrial action if the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) does not make an acceptable pay offer.

The union said council leaders were told on Wednesday that GMB’s residential and home care workers will make a decision on strike action after no offer was received, despite being told one was due.

Workers in other areas are also being balloted on industrial action as council leaders reputedly discuss an offer of 2%, the union said.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser in public services, said: “This offer is already far too late and, from what we have heard, is almost certain to be far too low.

“Our members have already shown great patience, but enough is enough.

“Council leaders must already suspect their offer will not be accepted but continue to waste time and inflict uncertainty.

“They claim to have no money but have made no serious attempt to persuade Scottish Government ministers to provide the money needed for a realistic, acceptable offer.

“They are leaving our members in limbo and Scots relying on frontline council services facing disruption.

“Our members in social care are among the lowest paid council workers delivering some of the most important frontline services.

“They deserve better than this. So do their colleagues, and so does every Scot relying on them to deliver the services Scotland is built on.”

Graham McNab, Unite’s industrial officer, said on Wednesday the lack of action from Cosla is “history repeating itself”.

Care home staff with patient
Unions said social care staff ‘deserve better’ (Alamy/PA)

He added: “There isn’t even an offer on the table for our local government membership to consider.

“Unite has no choice but to initiate an industrial action ballot process which will in the end force Cosla into making a credible pay offer.

“It really is a sorry state of affairs and the pay negotiation process has clearly demonstrated that is not fit for purpose.

“Let’s also be clear that the Scottish Government are equally to blame for this unacceptable situation.”

Unison Scotland lead for local government David O’Connor said: “The employers promised an improved offer would come this week. Council staff have made it very clear that they’re not willing to be strung along.

“If Cosla makes a better proposal soon, it’ll be considered. Strike action is always the last resort but, as it stands, there’s no choice but to start an official ballot.”

A Cosla spokesman said: “Learning from the last few years, we are working hard to maintain a dialogue with our SJC trade unions partners, whilst we explore all avenues.

“We are doing all that we can to get the best possible offer on the table. It is important to reiterate that this is against the context of a flat-cash settlement from Scottish Government, which leaves very little room to manoeuvre without service reductions and job losses, which we want to avoid at all costs.

“We understand our unions’ frustrations over the difficulties in getting a realistic pay offer to them given the constraints noted above.

“We remain committed to doing the best by our workforce, who deliver essential local services in every community across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for unions and local authorities as the employers.

“Ministers recognise the crucial role councils and their employees play in communities across Scotland.

“That’s why, despite UK Government cuts, this year the Scottish Government has made available over £14 billion to local councils – a real-terms increase of 2.5% compared with the previous year.

“The Scottish Government urges all the parties involved to work together constructively to reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”