Strike action closes schools and hits ferries

COUNCIL services ground to a halt on Wednesday when union workers staged their second 24 hour strike in just over a month.

Inter-island ferry services were cancelled and most schools stayed closed for the day when union members walked out in protest over pay.

Members of the public service unions Unite, GMB and Unison are in dispute with employer Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) over a below inflation pay offer of 2.5 per cent for three years. Around 1,200 council workers walked out on August 20th in protest over the offer.

Hopes were raised at the time that renewed negotiations could lead to a compromise which would avert any further strike action. But when talks with Cosla leaders failed to thrash out a deal, a second strike day was organised.

Unison’s Shetland representative Brian Smith said workers were increasingly concerned about the ongoing dispute, but he was sure they would show solidarity for one another.

“I think a lot of people are getting annoyed about this – and not just members of the unions but also the government.

“There is no reason why these employers shouldn’t do what they said they were going to do, and that is speak seriously about pay.”

The only schools staying open on Wednesday were Skerries, Fair Isle, Fetlar, Foula, Lunnasting and Sandness.
Schools at North Roe and Uyeasound stayed open for pupils until lunchtime.

The Janet Courtney Hostel in Lerwick closed its doors, but travel arrangements were made for isles pupils to take them to the ferry in time, and flights were arranged for Fair Isle pupils.

All ferry services were affected for the 24 hours, although there was an emergency service for blue light services and animal care. The public library in Lerwick  remained closed.

Islesburgh Community Centre and Youth Hostel closed all day to the public, including all children’s groups.
The Town Hall was also closed, as well as public toilets.

Despite the disruption, Mr Smith said he was confident the public were in support of the strike. “I haven’t heard any criticism at all from the general public.”

A cluster of council employees gathered outside some of the authorities main offices on Wednesday morning.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called on negotiations to resume as soon as possible. “Pay policy is the government’s responsibility. How serious does the situation need to get before ministers get around the negotiating table?”


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