Scottish officials must be paid "substantially" more, say unions

Written by Beckie Smith on 5 April 2019 in News
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Trade unions argue that a significant, above-inflation increase is needed to address years of pay erosion north of the border

​Three civil service unions have demanded the Scottish Government up its pay offer for public sector workers, saying the deal on the table fails to meet a government pledge to restore wages after years of austerity.

PCS, the FDA and Prospect, which represent civil servants and other public sector staff, have called for an across-the-board "cost of living" pay rise of 10% or £2,500 to offset what they say has been a drop in living standards as inflation has eroded pay.

In a joint pay claim published yesterday, the three unions said the 2019-20 pay settlement must not only protect its members from inflation increases, but begin to reverse years of real-terms wage cuts under the 1% public sector pay cap.


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The unions, who this week called on the Scottish Government to reopen its pan-public sector pay deal for 2019-20 in light of a more favourable settlement for teachers, said members needed a “substantial above-inflation increase”.

The pay policy, published in December, sets out a minimum pay increase of 3% for staff earning £36,500 or less, and up to 2% for those earning between £36,500 and £80,000. It also requires public employers to adhere to the Scottish Living Wage, a voluntary standard of £9 an hour – 89p more per hour than the national living wage for over-25s.

“The commitment given by the Scottish Government that they were committed to a journey to restore earnings following years of austerity pay freezes and pay caps was a major factor in convincing our members to accept offers which delivered less than our 2018 pay claim,” the unions said.

“Our members feel betrayed and angry. They expect ministers to honour promises made to them."

The pay claim also called for guaranteed pay progression “without strings”, as well as separate cost of living increases.

Suggestions in the government's policy that progression pay rises could be "traded for efficiency gains" were "unacceptable on the grounds of equality and fairness", the unions said.

“Staff are entitled to be paid the rate for the job they do and progression to the maximum in the shortest time is a crucial element in achieving that aim.”

The claim also called for a minimum wage of £10 an hour across all Scottish publish sector employers. It applauded the government's commitment to the Scottish Living Wage but said £9 an hour was not enough to “ensure workers a reasonable and civilised standard of living”.

It also said adopting a higher base-pay threshold would encourage other employers to raise wages. “The unions are clear that the living wage should be the pay floor of basic pay for all workers and that the public sector has a vital role in setting the example to the rest of the economy,” it said.

Public sector employers should also ensure their contractors pay a minimum of either £10 an hour or the Scottish Living Wage, the unions said.

They also said the Scottish Government should address the way pay deals are negotiated to ensure parity across different areas of the public sector – adding that the existing delegated bargaining system had led to “huge inequalities within pay systems, with workers doing broadly the same jobs for wildly different rates of pay”.

“Coherence would help reduce the risk of discrimination in pay and conditions across the sector,” they argued.

“At this critical time constitutionally we would reap the benefits of coherence in making re-organisation of the Scottish public sector landscape far less challenging for employers as well a more attractive option for union members.”

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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