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Plans for council worker strike scuppered by low turnout

Planned strike action across local government in Scotland will not go ahead as a ballot of Unison members failed to reach guidelines for voter turnout that would allow workers to take industrial action.

The union balloted its 70,000 members on whether to walk out over the 1% cap on public sector pay, and although 62.7% voted in favour of industrial action, the turnout of only 22.8% was some way below the 50% needed under government legislation to press ahead with action.

But Unison stated that it had a mandate to return to the table with COSLA, which is responsible for Scottish council workers’ pay, and would continue to update its members on any progress made during negotiations.

Previously, Mike Kirby, Unison Scotland secretary, had called on members of the union to not be “bullied” by the Trade Union Act 2016, which included the new rule on voter turnout, as he also stated that pay restraint and rising inflation had led to workers struggling to pay bills.

“A substantial number of Unison members are unhappy with the employers offer on pay,” said a spokesperson from the union. “The employers have previously stated that they would be prepared to meet with the trade unions once the ballot had concluded and as a result Unison will be seeking an early meeting to explore how pay can be concluded for 2017-18.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that Unison would reflect on the result and ask COSLA to do the same, before continuing to discuss a revised pay deal and better long-term conditions for council staff.

COSLA had offered a £350 increase to employees earning less than £35,000 as well as a 1% salary increase for those earning over £35,000 – something that the union argues falls far short of its demands.

“Local government cannot continue taking the brunt of austerity and the job losses which follow, and local government staff cannot continue living with a 1% pay cap,” it warned. “Especially being that they have seen their pay erode year on year for the past decade.

“Unison has written to every member with further details about the ballot result and we would like to thank all those who voted.”

Top Image: Tim Goode

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