STRIKES which could have caused a number of school closures across Scotland have been called off.

Members of the GMB union in ten councils including janitors and cleaners were due to strike next Wednesday and Thursday.

However, the action has been halted as a goodwill gesture as talks over a pay deal continue.

Councils are preparing to make a new offer but if a deal is not agreed there is likely to be widespread action by the GMB, Unison and Unite within weeks.

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The dispute involves non-teaching staff including catering, cleaning, pupil support, administration and janitorial workers in schools and early years centres.

The three unions have rejected an average pay increase of 5.5% - with a 99p an hour rise in the living wage for the lowest paid.

Cosla had previously said the “strong offer” raised the local government living wage by 99p to £11.84 an hour.

GMB Scotland had a mandate for strikes in Aberdeen, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow, Orkney, Renfrewshire and South Ayrshire.

Unite members in ten local authorities also voted to strike, while Unison members backed action in 24 of the 32 council areas.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser in public services, said: “We wanted to give parents, children and local authorities as much clarity around our plans as possible.

“We had served notice for two days of strike action this month but as our sister unions cannot join us on these dates these have been withdrawn and we are actively discussing joint action later in the month.

“Cosla has an opportunity to avert that action if they can offer our members a fair pay rise and we can only urge them to take that opportunity.”

A Cosla spokesperson said: “There was a positive meeting of council leaders yesterday, and we hope to meet the trade union colleagues as soon as possible to discuss next steps.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions. The Scottish Government and Cosla have committed to respect this negotiating arrangement as part of the Verity House Agreement.

“Despite UK Government cuts, the Scottish Government has provided a further £155 million to support a meaningful pay rise for local government workers, which has been taken into account in the pay offer already made by Cosla.

“The Scottish Government urges all the parties involved to work together constructively and reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”