LABOUR councillors in East Ayrshire have backed the local authority’s workers in their bid to secure a better pay settlement.

Trade unions have described a two per cent pay offer being negotiated by local government body Cosla as ‘nothing short of an insult’.

Now, Unison, Unite the the GMB unions are balloting school catering and cleaning staff, as well as refuse collectors and recycling workers on targeted strike action.

The ballot closed on Tuesday, shortly after this issue of the Chronicle went to press. Any action is likely to coincide with the start of the new school year.

It comes as future council finances face even greater pressure through spiralling inflation and the indication that government funding would be frozen for the next five years.

East Ayrshire Council says there are 1,400 staff in the affected departments, with 430 of them union members.

The authority’s Labour group leader, Councillor Maureen McKay, said the move was understandable and that council workers needed to be paid more.

She said: “Any decision to strike will have the potential to disrupt many council services. We need and rely on staff to deliver across our communities, in community centres, schools, housing services, waste management and all our outdoor services.

“These staff are people that every one of us relies on in different ways.

“Against a mounting cost of living crisis, inflation at a 40-plus-year high, brutal Scottish Government cuts, which our communities have borne the brunt of across years, I get why workers feel the need to withdraw their labour.

“I sincerely hope that an offer of additional funding can be delivered from the Scottish Government to acknowledge both the cuts to council budgets and the value of the services our staff provide.

“Put very simply, we need and want more, to be able to pay our staff more.”

Amanda Lowe, head of people and culture, East Ayrshire Council said: “It is still early days, since the ballot doesn’t close until end of July.

“This means that at the moment we don’t have any indication of actual numbers and cannot anticipate the full impact at this stage.

“In the meantime, the appropriate heads of service are aware of the potential strike action and will review their contingency plans and prepare as necessary.”