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Three-day strike at Highland schools looms after union slams 'miniscule' new pay offer

By Philip Murray

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UNISON members will take strike action.
UNISON members will take strike action.

A three-day walkout of school staff across the Highlands later this month looks set to go ahead after a union rejected a revised pay offer.

UNISON Scotland's local government committee voted unanimously to reject Cosla's new offer outright when they met to discuss it on Thursday.

They slammed the revised offer as "miniscule" and warned that strike on September 26, 27 and 28 will go ahead "unless a significantly improved offer" is received by no later than 5pm next Wednesday.

Related: Cosla makes revised pay offer to striking school staff

UNISON says it has written to Cosla – the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which represents the 32 councils in Scotland – to say that “the revision is miniscule and as a result the unanimous decision of our committee is that we reject this offer outright and proceed with strike action on the dates already notified”.

The letter to Cosla claimed that the revised offer represented an increase on the previous offer of only 0.17%. For those on the lowest pay the revised offer the union argued this would represent an increase of only £0.01 per hour, effective from January 1 next year. Those working full-time and earning £25k or above "are being offered no increase on the previous offer", which has already been rejected.

UNISON Scotland head of local government, Johanna Baxter, said: “It is deeply disappointing that it has taken Cosla five months since our members rejected the initial offer to present such insignificant changes. We have made very clear that Cosla must put forward a significantly improved offer to avert mass school strikes. Members of our Local Government Committee this morning described this offer as insulting.

"It is staggering that Cosla have still not approached, and continue to refuse to approach, the Scottish Government for additional funding to make a meaningful improvement to the pay offer.

"Given the state of local authority budgets we believe this to be a dereliction of the duty to stand up for local government and fight for the funding needed to both properly reward the local government workforce and keep our public services running.”

Chairman of UNISON Scotland's local government committee, Mark Ferguson added: “The strike mandate we have is the strongest show of strength by our members in decades – their resolve to fight for the decent pay rise they, and all their colleagues across local government, so richly deserve is clear.”

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