Time to get realistic

Today a three-year pay offer has been turned down by Scottish council workers – with possible industrial action to follow.

Scottish branches of Unite, GMB and Unison have all rejected the deal which would have seen a 1.5 per cent rise over three years. Instead the unions have demanded a 3 per cent or £600 rise (whichever is greater) as part of a one year pay deal.

A dose of reality is needed. South of the border, public sector workers earning over £21,000 are expecting a two-year pay freeze. Many private sector workers across the UK have suffered pay cuts and freezes during the recession. Scottish council workers have to share the burden; not doing so suggests their unions are living in some sort of dreamland. They may also find themselves with very little public sympathy. The biggest losers won’t be the well paid top brass of the Scottish unions, but the council staff who will be more likely to lose their job if a realistic deal is not reached.

A report published last week shows the funding crisis that is facing Scotland over the coming years. It warns that up to 60,000 jobs could go – or 1 in 10, depending on levels of pay restraint. The Public Sector payroll in Scotland is £15.2 billion, of which 31 per cent is Local Government or £4.7 billion. Next year if savings aren’t made, the resource available to meet the pay budget will be left short by over £300 million. It is hoped that this pay deal and natural wastage will reduce the costs at least in the short term. It doesn’t take an economist to work out that if you do not do this, many compulsory redundancies will be made.

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