A trade union representing 80,000 council workers in Scotland is preparing an industrial action ballot of its members over an “inadequate” pay offer.
Unison said the move comes after a breakdown in talks with local government employers’ association the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) on Tuesday.
Last month in an indicative ballot, Unison’s members overwhelmingly rejected the offer on the table, voting by 88% to reject it.
Some 74% backed taking some form of industrial action up to and including strikes.
The pay deal offers all council workers earning less than £25,000 an £800 rise, while those on £25,000 to £40,000 would get a 2% increase, and workers paid above that would be awarded 1%.
Unison argues its members have “gone above and beyond in their response to the Covid pandemic” and that they “deserve reward and recognition for their efforts”.
Cosla chiefs met on April 30 and were expected to take a decision on a new pay offer but it is said no decision will be taken until after the national elections.
Johanna Baxter, UNISON Scotland head of local government, suggested Cosla leaders were engaged in a “deeply cynical political ploy” and “intent on forcing that industrial dispute”.
She said: “This is a deeply cynical political ploy from Cosla Leaders who seem to be in denial about their responsibilities as an employer.
“Whilst it is indeed the case the Scottish Government should put more money into local authorities we have been campaigning on that issue for over a year and they show no willingness to do so.
“Our members cannot take an industrial dispute with the Scottish Government because they do not employ them.
“Cosla is the employer and their failure to improve the current inadequate offer simply indicates they are intent on forcing that industrial dispute with a workforce that has spent the last 12 months working flat out on the frontline.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on Saturday called on the SNP to act to avoid a “summer of discontent” and said the pay offer failed to take account of the rising cost of living.
SNP finance secretary Kate Forbes said the nationalist party had “protected councils from the kind of draconian cuts implemented by the Tories in a decade of Westminster austerity, which the Labour Party did nothing to stop”.
She added: “While the Tory government is imposing a public sector pay freeze and planning another round of massive austerity cuts, the SNP is introducing a pay rise for public sector workers and we are funding public services at record levels.”
Cuts to councils’ non-ringfenced budgets have seen a loss of almost £1 billion from local services since 2014.