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Highland Council services to be struck as Unite union members vote to strike over "derisory" two per cent pay offer while cost of living crisis deepens

By Alan Shields

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Highland Council HQ, Inverness.
Highland Council HQ, Inverness.

Highland Council workers are set to go on strike after talks broke down with Unite the union members.

The union said membership across 26 councils in Scotland including in the Highland region have rejected a proposed two per cent pay offer and instead voted for industrial action.

The other 25 councils include: Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, City of Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian.

Unite’s members employed by Tayside Contracts have also voted in favour of industrial action which will result in schools in Perth and Kinross Council now being impacted.

Unite said it will be finalising the strike dates in the coming week with action in refuse and waste services expected to begin in mid-August.

Action specifically impacting schools is expected to begin in early September.

Unite has repeatedly warned both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) that the current two per cent offer is unacceptable amid the deepening cost of living crisis with inflation soaring to 11.8 per cent.

Unite has welcomed movement by COSLA in calling for a higher pay offer of 5 per cent if the Scottish Government allocates extra cash to fund an improved pay offer. However, the trade union is demanding that council leaders fight harder for a fairer share for local government workers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The message for both the Scottish Government and COSLA is crystal clear: thousands upon thousands of members won’t tolerate real terms pay cuts anymore, and they have had enough.

"Our members are being forced to take this action due to a derisory pay offer, and we will support them in this fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government.”

Unite claim that more than half of Scotland’s 250,000 council workers are earning less than £25,000 a year for a 37-hour week.

The union previously warned all new council leaders if they do not act to improve pay, they will see strikes this summer.

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite industrial officer, added: “Our members are at the end of their patience.

"They are being forced to take this action due to being completely undervalued despite working throughout the pandemic.

"Let’s be clear here: a two per cent pay offer when the broader cost of living is at 11.8 per cent is a punishing real terms pay cut. In the coming weeks we will now plan for targeted strike action in 26 councils across Scotland and the blame for this lies squarely with COSLA and the First Minister.”

Highland Council has been approached for comment.

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