Stirling Council dispute: Call for talks over 'new proposals'
Stirling Council has invited unions to discuss "new proposals" aimed at ending a dispute over pay and conditions.
The dispute has centred on the council's plan for a 0.5% pay cut across all pay grades and an additional hour of work per week.
The council said the talks would focus on how to "protect pay, conditions and public services in the future".
But unions said the council had "no intention" of moving on the issues of pay cuts and longer hours.
The Unison, Unite, Ucatt and GMB unions have previously claimed the council's proposals would effectively mean a 1.5% pay cut for staff because council workers elsewhere in Scotland had accepted a 1% pay rise.
Stirling Council staff held a one-day strike on 26 August, with members of the IT department staging an additional selective strike earlier this month.
In a statement, the council claimed about 2,700 employees - some 90% of all staff members - had signed up to the new arrangements, which will come into effect in November.
However, unions said their members were only signing up "under protest" in order to keep their jobs.
The council said the proposals would see a 37-hour week introduced, and an average pay reduction of £10 a month for middle and higher paid employees.
The lowest grades will have a pay increase to £7.50 an hour as part of the council's ongoing commitment to the Living Wage, it said.
The council said unions had been invited to talks later this week, which would focus on ways to ensure employees continued to "enjoy good terms and conditions after the new arrangements have been implemented".
'Spirit of partnership'
Chief executive Bob Jack said: "We have invited the unions to meet with us during the week to discuss new proposals to bring the dispute to an end.
"The time has come to look beyond the current situation and plan how we can protect pay, conditions and public services in the future.
"We recognise that our employees are making real sacrifices in accepting the current changes, so we want to work with unions on how they can benefit as the council reshapes the way it operates in the years ahead.
"In a climate where we already have to make £24m in savings, with the possibility of more to come, it is vital that we build a new spirit of partnership to protect jobs and public services in the future."
The council said the changed terms and conditions would save £2.5m towards the £24m it has to find due to cuts in Scottish government funding.
It said it wished to avoid cuts to public services and the resulting compulsory redundancies, and claimed the changes to pay and conditions would save the equivalent of 120 jobs.
Lesley Russell, chair of the joint trade unions at Stirling Council, said: "Unions are always happy to meet with the employer to try to resolve the dispute.
"However, it seems clear that the council have no intention of moving on the two issues that most concern our members, namely longer hours along with pay cuts.
"The chief executive's figures don't add up when our members are facing a 4.4% cut.
"Our members signed their contracts 'under protest' to protect their jobs, not because they wanted to.
"The council hold £7.9m in reserves and can afford spending on celebrations for Stirling 2014 and Hogmanay, yet make these cuts which will inevitably impact on the local economy."