Falkirk Council: Union leader warns staff ready to take strike action

A local union leader says he believes council workers in Falkirk are ready and willing to strike after being offered a two per cent pay rise despite the cost of living crisis.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 20th June 2022, 5:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 10:11 am

Falkirk is one of 32 councils across Scotland whose staff are being balloted on being part of national strike action that will target workers including bin men, carers and school support staff.

Kevin Robertson, chair of Unite the union, Falkirk Council branch, says it is the first ballot he has known where people are actively looking for ballot papers.

He said: “Nobody goes on strike with pleasure. It really is the last resort. Unions do not want to see schools shut and rubbish piling up on our streets. Remember, trade union members will be affected by these too.

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A union leader for Unite says he believes council staff are ready to strike

“This is a restricted strike ballot; so not all workers will be balloted or asked to withdraw their labour, but this is the first such vote I have been involved in where members have been actively seeking ballot papers and asking why they are not being balloted. Such is the strength of feeling amongst some sectors.”

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Mr Robertson said their argument is not primarily with Falkirk Council as the union has a good working relationship with them – but “members are not happy at being offered such a paltry, and frankly, quite an insulting offer whilst other public sector workers are awarded far more.”

He said: “It is insulting to say that workers on poverty pay can always apply for benefits if their pay is so low. It is insulting to say that those already on the lowest hourly rates should have to pay the heaviest price of recovery from covid whilst those at the top carry less of the burden.

“We ask only for a decent pay rise, especially favouring the lowest paid. We want a negotiated fair settlement. We want the Scottish Government to stop cutting funds to local councils and politicians at all levels to stand up for local workers, our communities and their services.”

Union members, including Falkirk branch convener Helen Welsh, took their case to COSLA, the councils’ umbrella group, where they lobbied councillors attending the meeting.

But COSLA in turn has criticised the Scottish Government for not providing funds that would enable councils to give staff a better pay increase.

In a statement, it said: “COSLA is deeply disappointed that the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance have refused the request of all council leaders to engage in discussions regarding the current settlement for Local Government and its significant impact on our ongoing pay negotiations

“As the ‘Resource Spending Review’, published on May 31, shows that Local Government’s core funding for the next three years will remain static at a time when inflation and energy costs are soaring. This “flat-cash” scenario gives no scope to recognising the essential work of our staff, whose expectations, quite rightly, are being influenced by Scottish Government’s decisions in relation to other parts of the public sector.”

Ballot papers must be returned by July 26. If the ballot for industrial action is successful then strike action could begin in August at the beginning of the new school term.