THE quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, is wrongly attributed to Einstein, and whoever did pen it, is unlikely to have been an expert in psychology.

I am no expert in that field either. However, I do know a thing or two about the mindset of employers and workers during pay negotiations.

Local government workers and Cosla are at loggerheads Those who uphold our public services – the school jannies, the catering staff and the clenny jointly represented by Unison, GMB and Unite – are all preparing to take strike action.

This may sound familiar. That’s because it is.

This is the same dispute that happened last year which, after months of utterly unnecessary horse trading and obfuscation from the employer, resulted in a significant victory for the workers.

It is worth reminding ourselves that last year, with inflation well on the way to hitting double figures, the original pay offer to council workers was 2%. It took months to move that offer up to 3.5% and still further months in which workers took strike action to obtain an offer of 5.5%, still below inflation, which workers accepted.

The National:

It was accepted partly because we succeeded in negotiating for additional protection for the lower paid.

Are we going to repeat this same dance again?

Will our key workers be subjected to the employer going through the motions, presenting one unacceptable offer after another and then shutting up shop?

If negotiations are to be meaningful and done in good faith, each side must be open to exploring all avenues to seek a resolution.

The underlying issues which led workers to this point are still the same: chronic low pay, endemic underfunding of services and an ever-increasing degradation of their working conditions.

The same issues. The same dispute. The same outcome.

Perhaps the employer is relying on worker strike fatigue? Or perhaps a changing narrative?

It looks as if inflation is beginning to fall. It will likely be replaced by rising unemployment on the back of a Bank of England-engineered recession. As Mark Twain didn’t say, “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.”

As inflation falls back and a General Election looms, we will be told by Tory ministers that the “cost of living crisis is over”. What they mean by this is that wage growth may, possibly, just, finally begin to match inflation – at least for those who manage to retain their job.

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This is nonsense. It is like saying that if a storm rips off half of the roof of your house and then the wind abates, the roof will magically repair itself.

Even before the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis, baked in public sector real terms wage loss since 2010 averaged around £2000 per worker Every year that inflation outstrips wages, this situation worsens.

Local government finances are in a mess and have been for the best part of a generation. The Scottish Government has continued with the outdated and unfair Council Tax whilst year on year freezing it for electoral gain.

As a result, we now pay significantly less towards local services than those south of the Border. The ultimate blame for our predicament lies in years of Tory government budget squeeze.

“Let them eat cake” is another mistakenly attributed quote, but there are plenty of UK Tory ministers for whom it has become a mantra.

The Scottish Government is constrained, but the situation has reached a crisis point and there can be no excuse for inaction.

The National:

Cutting real terms wages here is not the answer. It is morally wrong, but it is also economically incoherent. Local government workers are overwhelmingly local, living in the areas in which they work.

As a means of boosting demand and growth in local economies, paying these workers a decent wage is hard to beat.

It’s been covered many times and I’ve often been the one repeating it, but no worker, least of all during this current crisis, wants to go on strike. They would much rather be at their work, serving their communities and upholding the integrity of our public services that we all rely on.

It would be far more prudent of employers to come to the table and take the concerns of their workforce seriously. That means presenting a serious offer on the table.

It also means, once and for all, dispensing with the notion that these negotiations are nothing to do with the Scottish Government.

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Every year we start with a daft lowball offer followed by the Scottish Government misguidedly claiming they cannot intervene. This is nonsense, the Scottish Government is by far the largest funder of councils and its public sector pay strategy sets the mark for pay offers across the public sector.

Last year the former first minister Nicola Sturgeon broke the impasse, albeit later than she should have.

This was however the act of leadership that broke the deadlock and was welcomed by all the unions involved.

The ball, therefore, is in Humza Yousaf’s court.

I’ve been up-front about our ambitions to work with the First Minister to deliver for working people in Scotland. In return, he’s said all the right things; that unions are key allies in the fight for fair work and economic justice, that we play an integral role in the pursuit of making Scotland a progressive country.

Last year workers showed that a powerful and solid, highly unionised workforce can deliver results. Results to the tune of more than £2 billion worth of pay rises, to be exact.

Better still, that’s £1.1bn more than they would have had if they just meekly accepted the initial pay offers of the employers.

Taking strike action works. Holding governments, employers and bad bosses to account works. Demanding better for the people of Scotland works.

You can quote me on that.