Cosla and Pay Freeze Imposition

With UNISON, Unite and the GMB having rejected their initial three year Pay Offer (1%, 0% and 0.5%) COSLA moved on Friday to impose an even poorer 2 year pay freeze (0.65% and 0%) on local authority workers.

Even now – with all that I know of budget cuts and redundancies – Cosla’s behaviour shocks me. It strikes as calculating and vicious.
I say calculating because, having thought about the situation over the weekend (and having thought about its implications for other public sector workers), I don’t believe that the implications of this cynical and aggressive tactic haven’t been carefully thought out.
So, why impose this reduced offer? Is it Cosla calling the bluff of the unions? Are they gambling on lack of public support for any industrial action? Or gambling on a lack of stomach for the fight amongst union members?
I think it’s all three…
  • Cosla gamble on the effect which the pro-public sector cuts hegemony (which has been fostered, first by the last Labour Westminster government and then by the current Condem government) has upon their own employee group as well as the general public. They won’t be blind to the general acceptance (even amongst their own, largely depoliticised employee group) of the ‘shared pain’ messages which have been emanating from all corners.
  • Cosla gamble on an assessment of union leadership which places that leadership to the left of their membership. Cosla will also be aware that behind the public anti-cuts campaigns being run by the unions there is no unanimity as to union tactic. In effect Cosla gamble on a lack of strategic planning by the unions. By striking whilst the iron is hot, Cosla gain the ‘upper hand’ … the unions are forced to ‘react’.
  • It is in Cosla’s interests to manufacture a confrontation with their employee group now – as opposed to waiting til later… When the severity of the cuts bite the likelihood that public anger and sympathy with both union campaigns and employee action will increase.
The unions have indicated they will be balloting their members on industrial action.
It remains to be seen whether – as the papers are predicting this weekend – Scotland will face a winter of disruption to vital public services.