Highland Council services to be cut as Unite union members vote to strike for ‘paltry’ 2% wage offer as cost of living crisis deepens

Highland Council Headquarters, Inverness.

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

The union said members of 26 councils in Scotland, including the Highlands region, rejected a proposed 2 per cent wage 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 members employed by Tayside Contracts have also voted in favor of industrial action which will mean schools in Perth and Kinross Council will now be affected.

Unite said it would finalize strike dates in the coming week with action in garbage and waste services due to begin in mid-August.

Actions specifically impacting schools should begin in early September.

Unite has repeatedly warned the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) that the current 2% offer is unacceptable in the context of the worsening cost of living crisis with inflation reaching 11, 8%.

Unite welcomed COSLA’s move by calling for a 5% higher wage offer if the Scottish Government allocates additional cash to fund an improved wage offer. However, the union is demanding council leaders fight harder for a fairer share for local government workers.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “The message for the Scottish Government and COSLA is clear: thousands and thousands of members will no longer tolerate real pay cuts, and they are fed up.

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

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

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

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite Industry Officer, added: “Our members are running out of patience.

“They are forced to take this action because they are completely undervalued despite their work throughout the pandemic.

“Let’s be clear here: a 2% wage offer when the wider cost of living is 11.8% is a punitive pay cut in real terms. In the coming weeks we will now be planning targeted strike action in 26 councils across Scotland and the blame for this lies squarely with COSLA and the Prime Minister.

Highland Council has been approached for comment.

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