Union demands action from Holyrood ministers as Scots join ‘walkout Wednesday’

Trade union bosses have demanded “less talk and more action” from the Scottish Government on workers’ pay, as some 50,000 employees north of the border joined a co-ordinated day of strike action.

Civil servants, higher education staff and teachers are among those to have walked out in Scotland on Wednesday, as an estimated 500,000 workers across the UK went on strike.

The day has been branded “walkout Wednesday” over the scale of the action – the largest such protest in the UK for decades.

With the PCS union, which represents civil servants, taking part, some Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament staff are involved.

This has led to the Holyrood building being closed to visitors, with some MSPs refusing to attend parliamentary business during the strike.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer has demanded more action from the Scottish Government to resolve the disputes (Andrew Milligan/PA)
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer has demanded more action from the Scottish Government to resolve the disputes (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The PCS and other unions held a rally in Edinburgh just after midday, with several hundred gathering at The Mound to hear speeches from union leaders.

In Glasgow, hundreds of people attended a solidarity rally organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), with members of the EIS, PCS, University and College Union (UCU) and Unison unions among those taking part in the event on Buchanan Street.

Courts and tribunals are being disrupted, but those due to attend court on Wednesday are still advised to do so by the Crown Office.

Higher education workers have walked out as part of their ongoing dispute over pensions, pay and conditions, with members of the UCU at the majority of Scotland’s universities taking strike action.

Meanwhile, rolling action by the EIS involves teachers in Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen striking on Wednesday.

The teaching union has strike dates planned that run into March and April as it fights for a 10% pay rise for teachers – something the Scottish Government insists is unaffordable.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, said while there is a “clear difference” between the Scottish and UK Governments in their handling of the strikes, more action is needed from Holyrood ministers.

Hitting out at the Conservative Government at Westminster, Ms Foyer told the PA news agency: “The UK Government, we’ve got a billionaire Prime Minister who won’t even talk to trade unions or intervene to try and resolve disputes, in fact, quite the opposite.

“I believe they’re using the disputes to try to drive a wedge between working people and get us to vilify and blame each other for the crisis that they created.”

Mass UK strike action
Protesters gather to listen to speakers at the Protect The Right To Strike rally in Buchanan Street, Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, she added: “Up here at least we have a Government that is willing to get in the room and talk, but we still have some very serious, outstanding disputes.

“Our teachers, our civil servants and others are still waiting for a decent pay offer to be put on the table.

“So we need less talk and more action now from the Scottish Government.”

Speaking after the STUC rally in Glasgow, Ms Foyer told the PA news agency: “No worker takes strike action lightly, workers don’t want to be in that situation and frankly it’s shocking that they have to be in that situation.

“We’ve got civil servants here today who’ve been offered nothing further than a 2% pay rise and in a situation where inflation has been well over 10% for the whole of the past year.

“It’s not good enough that workers are being offered only 2% and that their pay is still unsettled since last April, that’s just shocking.”

Speaking from a picket line outside the Scottish Parliament, PCS industrial officer Joy Dunn said about 11,000 workers in Scottish public services are out on strike.

She told the PA news agency: “The messages I’ve been getting through from my colleagues across the country is that the strike is pretty solid.

“People are out in their droves and they’re sending a very clear message to both the UK and the Scottish Government that they are feeling a cost-of-living crisis quite hard and they want their pay increased to a level they can live on.”

She called for the UK Government to stop being “intransigent” on negotiations and put more money on the table.

Ms Dunn continued: “Our members don’t want to be on strike, this is a last resort.

“They would rather be inside the buildings on a cold day like this than outside the buildings.

“But we have caused disruption in the museums, galleries, the court service, the Crown Office, the Scottish Government itself, job centres and the Ministry of Justice.

Mass UK strike action
PCS union members were among those at the rally in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“So this is fairly widespread action – this is not the fault of our members, this is the fault of an intransigent UK Government.”

Some rail workers are also out on strike, with drivers who are members of the Aslef and RMT unions embroiled in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

In Scotland, cross-border trains are affected, with LNER running a limited service from Edinburgh south of the border. None of its trains will run north of Edinburgh.

Avanti West Coast has advised customers not to travel on Wednesday or Friday – when strike action is also scheduled – with the operator unable to “run any trains as a result of this industrial action”.

But ScotRail has stressed its services will run as normal this week.