Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Budget leader asks for pay restraint to protect jobs

Council workers
Unions have submitted their members' annual pay claim

Highland Council workers look set to be asked to take a pay freeze to protect their jobs.

Budget leader David Alston said limited settlements over three years to achieve the equivalent of a one year pay freeze would save up to £8m.

His comments follow the government's announcement that councils are to receive nearly £12bn next year.

Shane Manning, Unison's Highland branch officer, said the suggestion that staff take a pay cut was "frightening".

Mr Alston call for pay restraint also follows three unions representing Scotland's council workers submitting their annual pay claim.

The unions - Unison, Unite and the GMB - which represent 150,000 council workers in Scotland, are seeking an above-inflation pay rise of 3%.

'Not reasonable'

They also want the lowest paid workers to get even more, so their pay would rise by a total of £600.

The councils, which are facing budget cutbacks, will make their formal response to the claim in January.

Mr Alston said: "We would hope to see either a pay freeze or the equivalent of a pay freeze in restraining pay settlements over the next two to three years.

"I think it is reasonable to do that, not least because a pay freeze helps to protect jobs."

Mr Manning said workers were facing difficult times.

He said: "To ask them to take a cut in pay is not reasonable especially when they have already agreed settlements for the chief officials."

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the £12bn to shared out among council's would have been £174m higher were it not for a funding cut of £500m.

He said the cut was "imposed on the Scottish budget by the UK government".

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