Council workers' pay deal will mean sacrifices, says Swinney

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Image caption,
John Swinney has announced an extra £140m of funding in a bid to end the council pay dispute

The Scottish government has warned that allocating an extra £140m to settle a council pay dispute will mean sacrificing other spending plans.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced the new funding on Friday after talks with local authorities.

He said the government was keen to make sure council employees, who have been offered a 2% rise, get a fair salary.

But with the budget fully allocated, he said very difficult decisions would have to be be made to find the money.

Unions have said that until the extra funding translates into a formal, "significantly improved" offer, plans for strikes are still on.

Staff at schools, nurseries and waste and recycling centres voted to strike after rejecting the 2% pay offer in March.

The deputy first minister told BBC Scotland there were "massive pressures" due to the cost of living crisis but he hoped progress could be made "at the earliest opportunity".

"The Scottish government's budget is fully allocated and we will have to take very difficult decisions to provide £140m of new resources to local government to assist them in making an improved offer to council employees," he added.

"That will involve us making financial sacrifices.

"It involves us changing programmes and changing timetables for programmes, but we recognise that we've got to work with local authorities to put forward an improved settlement offer for council staff."

Leaders of the local authority body Cosla met on Friday to discuss the prospect of industrial action by members of the Unite, Unison and GMB unions.

Image caption,
The strike action could result in rubbish piling up

The council leaders decided they needed more information and said they would reconvene next week.

Mr Swinney later said that the Scottish government would contribute £140m of recurring funding to help Cosla make a revised pay offer.

GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway accused government and council leaders of "squabbling" over where to find the money to settle the dispute.

He said the current cost of living crisis meant workers were already struggling to pay bills and feed their families.

"Unless a significantly improved offer is found, then tens of thousands of local government workers will fall into working poverty and that will turn the cost of living crisis for them into a catastrophe," Mr Greenaway said.

"Whatever money has been found by the Scottish government, that hasn't found its way into a formal offer to our members yet. And until that happens, we'll still be looking at industrial action."

He added: "It should lay heavy on the political leadership who have let this situation get to where it is.

"We've been waiting for a decent and improved offer since March. They have sat on their hands and done nothing.

"If industrial action takes place, it's on the Scottish government and council leaders."