Guide to local government pay

The annual pay award for local government workers in Scotland is set through negotiations between COSLA—the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—and the Scottish Joint Council (SJC), made up of the trade unions Unite, Unison and GMB.

The budget for the pay comes from the Scottish Government. The arrangements for the annual pay award are nothing to do with the individual councils.

The local government pay award is for all 32 councils in Scotland, covering around 150,000 workers. Around 16,000 are Unite members.

Bargaining groups

There are three bargaining groups when it comes to local government pay:

  • Local Government Employees (LGE)—all council workers except teachers and craft employees.
  • Craft—in Edinburgh the only workers covered by craft terms are craft apprentices. Other craft workers are on LGE terms, with the addition of a tools and overalls allowance that is decided in the craft deal.
  • Teachers—their bargaining is separate, done between the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), made up of teaching unions, and COSLA.

Timescales and events

Scottish Government sets its budget in December.

SJC submits its pay claim in January. This sets out what the unions are calling for. It gives COSLA plenty time to have pay sorted by April.

City of Edinburgh Council sets its budget in February. This outlines what pay deal it has budgeted for.

COSLA respond with a pay offer. This should be before April—as this is when the pay deal should be in place—but they are normally late.

How decisions are made

Each union has its own Scottish local government committee. In Unite, this is known as the local government RISC (Regional Industrial Sector Committee).

Your branch has four reps on the local government committee, giving it a strong voice. Contact a branch official if you have something to raise at the RISC.

The local government committee decides Unite’s position on the pay claim and the strategy on balloting and industrial, including which groups of workers to ballot. This position is then taken to the SJC, where Unite, Unison and GMB agree on a pay claim to submit and plan which workers to ballot.

When a pay offer comes in from COSLA, the local government committee can

  • reject an offer
  • decide to ballot members to see what they think.

It cannot accept any offers—any offer can only be accepted by members’ vote.

Local terms and conditions

While the amount of the pay rise is a national matter, decided through the process above, many of your terms and conditions are decided locally with the City of Edinburgh Council.

For example, what grade your job is and how much each grade gets paid.

Your branch fights for these improvements locally directly with the Council.

Pay and inflation

The rate of inflation indicates how much prices are going up compared to last year. There are two main figures you will see used to calculate inflation. Both look at a range of products and services and compare how much the price has increased over a year.

  • consumer price index (CPI), this is lower as it does not include housing costs
  • retail price index (RPI).

If your pay rise is less than the rate of inflation, then it is a pay cut. Your wages are worth less than they used to be.

To get a real pay rise, the pay deal must be above the rate of inflation. We consider the RPI more accurate for this, as the vast majority of workers pay for housing—mortgage, rent, council tax etc. The media often use the CPI, which is only useful if you’ve paid off your mortgage and don’t have to pay council tax!