Local government industrial action blocked by new strike laws

STRIKE action among Scotland's local government workers has been called off after a ballot on industrial action fell foul of new turnout laws.

Unison had balloted members after they rejected employers' pay offer last month. The proposal would see staff earning less than £35,000 a year, based on a 37-hour working week, receive a flat payment of £350, while those earning more than £35,000 would receive a 1% pay rise.

The union said 62.7% voted for industrial action, but on a turnout of just 22.8%. Under the Trade Union Act 2016, 50% of eligible members must take part in a strike ballot for the result to stand.

The Government has argued that the act protects vital public services from disruption. But Unison has called it a "spiteful" and "undemocratic" piece of legislation that seeks to bully workers and unions.

Unison said despite being unable to take industrial action, a "substantial" number of members remain unhappy with the pay offer on the table having endured significant cuts and it will now seek an urgent meeting with employers' body COSLA to discuss the way forward.  

"We need to discuss the pay deal on the table, discuss pay and conditions for local government staff over the longer term, and more broadly we have to discuss the future of local government in Scotland," the union said.

"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 - especially being that they have seen their pay erode year-on-year for the past decade."

COSLA said it was "encouraged that good sense has prevailed and that the majority of Unison members decided not to back the call for strike action".

"The pay deal we have offered our workforce is the best deal in local government anywhere in the UK and focuses more money towards those in lower pay brackets," a spokesman added.

"We now invite Unison to get back round the table with COSLA Employers and get this deal implemented."