NICOLA Sturgeon has been criticized for refusing to engage in talks with local authorities on improved funding, as concerns grow that the cuts will hit public services and have a ‘significant impact’ on a pay dispute in Classes.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has warned of risks to public services while expressing concern over the failure of First Minister and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to speak.
It comes following a backlash from public sector workers after ministers agreed a ‘groundbreaking’ 5% pay deal for train drivers, which could end a row that has led to major cuts to nationalized ScotRail services.
This included an “additional revenue-sharing agreement” that could potentially take the salary increase to almost 10%, which would apply when revenue targets are exceeded.
The prospect of thousands of Scottish local authority workers, from cleaners and garbage collectors to social workers and school staff, going on strike this summer over pay disputes has grown even closer as three key unions Unison, GMB and Unite are preparing for strike ballots on a 2.2% bid.
Action to close schools is already under threat as unions representing public sector staff fight for the same treatment as train drivers – despite huge cuts in public spending.
Public services in Scotland are bracing for ‘sharp’ cuts after ministers unveiled a spending plan just over a week ago that will slash more than £1billion from key areas including councils and the police.
Public services union Unison is due to vote 25,000 school staff and waste and recycling workers to strike today after Finance Secretary Kate Forbes turned down an offer for last-minute talks. The ballot will take seven weeks and close on July 26.
Unison recommends that the workforce vote “yes” to the strike as the only way to advance COSLA’s position. They say they intend to close schools across Scotland when children return after the summer school holidays.
Now COSLA has expressed its “deep disappointment” that the Prime Minister and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have refused a request from all council leaders to engage in discussions regarding the current local government deal and its “impact significant impact on our ongoing wage negotiations”.
COSLA said: “The implications of the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the rest of parliament are deeply concerning for communities across Scotland and have further heightened the already strong likelihood of industrial action in the months ahead.” Scottish government continues to fail to respect the fundamental role of local government and its workforce in meeting their own priorities of tackling child poverty, climate change and a stronger economy. »
He said the resource expenditure review shows that local government core funding for the next three years will remain static at a time of soaring inflation and energy costs. “This ‘fixed cash’ scenario leaves no room for recognition of the essential work of our staff, whose expectations are rightly influenced by Scottish Government decisions compared to other parts of the public sector,” COSLA said. “A suggestion that increases in social benefits will alleviate the cost of living crisis fails to recognize that our staff should not depend on these payments to make ends meet.
“As things stand, the only option available to councils is even fewer jobs and cuts to essential services to communities around the world.”
A final attempt by the unions to avoid industrial action in a letter to Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes also failed.
In a joint letter, signed by unions Unison, Unite and GMB, industrial action would “close schools across the country and see litter piling up in the streets” if a resolution is not found.
A senior member of the union has already said Scottish teachers will go on strike if pay negotiations over a 2% pay rise do not result in an acceptable deal. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) “instantly” rejected the offer and is asking for a 10% rise as inflation is at 9%, its fastest rate in 40 years.
On Thursday, negotiators for train drivers’ union Aslef, who were deep in their own pay dispute, decided to recommend acceptance of a 5% improved pay deal after negotiations with the train operator’s management. nationalized. It has yet to be put to the pilots.
The union’s executive committee previously rejected a 4.2% wage offer amid a strike threat. Unlike the last offer, the negotiating team had recommended neither acceptance nor rejection.
But the National Union of Railway, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which represents the bulk of the vast majority of ScotRail’s 5,000 employees, including conductors, ticket examiners and some chauffeurs, said rejected the offer.
The union will instead recommend to its national executive to continue to vote for the strike among its members.
Union sources said the development made it clear that the 2.2% offer to tens of thousands of public sector workers for 2022/23 was insufficient.
COSLA Resources Spokesperson Gail Macgregor said: “COSLA, each year, advocates for equitable funding for local government to maintain the essential services that our communities rely on. No increase in our base funding harms these services and limits the options we have to complete salary negotiations. The refusal to engage in discussion will only continue and our communities will see and feel the difference.
The Fraser of Allander Institute acknowledged the impact on councils saying: “The local government budget will decrease by 7% in real terms between 2022/23 and 2026/27……. the erosion in real terms of local government funding allocations represents the continuation of a longer trend.
The Scottish Government previously forecast a widening gap between its funding and spending of around £3.5billion by 2026/27, with critics accusing it of ‘mismanagement’.
A review of resource spending – which outlines how the Scottish Government intends to spend £180billion on the remainder of the legislature – includes £22.9billion on social security, increase protection payment for Scottish children and £73.1 billion for health and social care, including the development of a national care service.
However, justice and local government spending will be frozen, which will amount to cuts in real terms.