Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 00:11 UK

Council strike sparks disruption

Uncollected rubbish
The strike has hit several essential council services

Local services including schools, bin collections and ferry crossings have been disrupted as thousands of council workers staged a 24 walk-out over pay.

Up to 150,000 members of the GMB, Unite and Unison unions joined the walkout, which ended at midnight, after a 2.5% pay deal over three years was rejected.

The local government umbrella group Cosla said it was willing to meet with unions to discuss the dispute.

Scottish ministers urged both sides to resolve the matter.

Industrial action was taking place across the Scotland, although the level of disruption differed between council areas.

While teachers are not participating in the strike, many schools are closed, along with libraries and day care centres.

School buses, school dinners and meals on wheels have also been hit in some areas.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne said it would cancel sailings from Rothesay and Dunoon piers, due to action by Arygyll and Bute council workers.

Union leader and Cosla spokesman give their views on the strike action

David Prentis, general secretary of Unison, which represents about 100,000 workers, said he thought the public would understand the concerns.

He said: "Our members are taking this action very reluctantly. They care deeply about the vital services they provide and those who depend on them and we apologise for any disruption.

"However, members feel they have no choice when the employers' offer is effectively a pay cut."

There will be picket lines outside several council headquarters. Union members have also planned to distribute leaflets to commuters at Edinburgh's Waverley Station and a rally was due to be held at George Square in Glasgow at 1215 BST.

Michael Cook, Cosla spokesman for the Scottish Employers, said councils were "absolutely willing" to meet with union leaders and accepted that the financial climate had changed since the pay offer was made in March.

Views from the picket line

He said: "Clearly, inflation has moved significantly from where it was at the end of March, but some things haven't moved and I think we need to acknowledge that the money that councils have available to them is tight and it is defined for the next three years.

"That is a limitation upon us, and anything that we look at in the context of trying to reach an accommodation with the unions does have consequences."

Finance Secretary John Swinney, said: "I would encourage both parties to try to resolve the dispute to ensure that there is no further interruption to public services and I hope that resolution can be achieved by local authorities and their employees."

His comments came after unions last week called on the Scottish Government to intervene and provide "adequate funding" to local authority employers to address low pay.

A second strike by government civil servants with the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union was also due to take place on the same day, following a similar strike last month.

The dispute centres around a 2% pay increase, which its members say amounts to a pay cut while inflation rises above 5%.

The local authority strike in Scotland follows a 48-hour walkout by council workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last month.


SEE ALSO
Staff hold strike rally at castle
20 Aug 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Pay dispute call ahead of strike
15 Aug 08 |  Scotland
Council workers vote for strike
01 Aug 08 |  Scotland

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