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Unions urge Scottish government to show support to key workers in Budget announcement

by Niall Christie 

Scotland editor

TRADE unionists and campaigners have challenged the Scottish government to show that it is on the side of key workers in this week’s Budget by agreeing to public-sector pay claims.

Ahead of tomorrow’s announcement, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has been told that the government has an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of working people. 

Representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) urged ministers to use the government’s increased budget for this year to meet pay claims such as the £2,000 minimum rise in health and local government. 

Ms Forbes promised earlier this week to offer public-sector workers a “fair and affordable” settlement.

But STUC general secretary Roz Foyer argued that better public-sector pay would help economic recovery, as well as providing other benefits to the workers concerned.

Ms Foyer pointed to the positive effect that this would have on women, who account for the majority of key workers, as well as reiterating that any move to a four-day working week must not be accompanied by a loss of pay. 

“Key workers have kept society running during the pandemic,” she said. “Yet while we hail them as heroes, they are not paid like heroes.

“Thursday’s Budget gives the Scottish government the chance to show that it is truly on the side of Scotland’s key workers. 

“We need a pay policy that signals a truly different path from the one chosen by Rishi Sunak and which begins to address longer- term structural pay inequalities.”

The calls coincided with pressure from Labour and Unison for fair funding for colleges and universities in the Budget, with MSP Iain Gray saying that colleges can be crucial as Scotland rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic. 

Unison wrote to the Finance Secretary, warning that “urgent intervention from the Scottish government on behalf of the further and higher education sectors is desperately needed.”

Housing campaigners have also laid out their Budget demands, with ministers being told that the construction of affordable housing should be the “cornerstone of Scotland’s recovery.”

A letter from 32 housing organisations, charities and support groups has urged Ms Forbes to prioritise housing this week, arguing that at least 53,000 new affordable homes, including at least 37,100 for social rent, are needed by 2026.

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