THE threat of strike action in South Ayrshire's schools by members of one of Britain's biggest trade unions has been averted.

Members of the GMB in Scotland voted to accept a pay offer from their employers, lifting the threat of industrial action at local authorities across the country.

The union had suspended scheduled strikes in schools and early years centres to allow members to decide on the revised offer from local government body Cosla.

The GMB in Scotland says 62 per cent of its members working for the country's local authorities had voted to accept the deal, which will see a minimum increase of £1.04 per hour for the lowest paid council workers, a rise of 9.6 per cent, and a minimum increase of £1 per hour for their colleagues.

The result of the GMB vote comes only a day after the country's largest trade union, Unison, said it planned to hold a rolling programme of strikes at councils across Scotland in pursuit of a better pay offer. 

Unison's strike action will affect schools in South Ayrshire as well as neighbouring North Ayrshire, though dates for its planned walkouts have yet to be announced.

Members of a third union, Unite, have also voted to accept Cosla's pay offer.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser in public services, said: “Our members have now backed this offer which will deliver a fair pay rise for all council workers, but particularly those on the lowest salaries.

“It is not a perfect offer but is a good one and it was right our members, who were ready to strike in support of fair pay, were given the chance to vote on it.

“We have been assured no council services or jobs will be cut to fund this pay offer and will continue to ensure those assurances are kept.”

Mr Greenaway said the negotiating process had been far too long, however, and only fuelled uncertainty and mistrust.

He added: “That it took the threat of strike action for Cosla to make an offer which could and should have been on the table months ago is frustrating and regrettable.

“Pay negotiations do not have to be like this.

“Instead of getting a fair pay offer and the money in their banks, our members have been asked to endure months of inaction, needless delay, and all the melodrama of deadlines and last-minute offers.

“The Scottish Government and Cosla need to sit down with the unions to find a better way of negotiating and ensuring these discussions are done with a sense of urgency and fairness that has been absolutely lacking in recent months.”

Councillor Katie Hagmann, Cosla’s resources spokesperson, welcomed the move to accept the vote.

She said: “I am delighted with today’s response from members of both the GMB and Unite trade unions in voting to accept the strong offer Cosla has on the table.

“Their union negotiators also deserve a great deal of credit for the pragmatic approach they took in recommending acceptance to their respective memberships.

“It is pleasing that these two trade unions see the value Scotland’s council leaders place on our workforce.

“We have listened to our trade unions, met all their asks, and worked with the Scottish Government to put an incredibly strong half-a-billion-pound pay package forward.”

Cllr Hagmann added: “When you extrapolate the votes across all unions it shows that only around one local government worker in five (excluding teachers) has voted to reject the strong pay offer presented.

“Significantly, membership of the two unions who have accepted predominantly comprises those in lower-paid roles across local government and this is where we were asked to focus the deal.

“This is a realistic response from the two trade unions who have recognised that not only have we as employers targeted those workers on the lowest pay as they requested, but they have also recognised that as employers we have gone as far as we can go without impacting service and jobs.

“These are not empty words – we have put our very best and final offer to the unions – councils have been more than fair in this strong offer and the GMB and Unite unions have done well in accepting it without the need to take industrial action.

“Both GMB and Unite have recognised the reality of where we are at this time, on behalf of their memberships, and that is a positive outcome for all.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.