Kirk staff threaten strike during General Assembly

CHURCH of Scotland staff have threatened to disrupt next month’s General Assembly with strike action following a dispute over pay.
Rev John Chalmers to become this years Kirk ModeratorRev John Chalmers to become this years Kirk Moderator
Rev John Chalmers to become this years Kirk Moderator

Unite members at the Kirk’s headquarters in Edinburgh are to be balloted on industrial action in the next two weeks.

The union said the staff have had a pay rise settlement enforced on them with terms they did not agree to.

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Unite threatened that if the vote was successful, the strike will take place at the same time as the General Assembly, during which the Rev John Chalmers will be installed as Moderator.

The union said it had been in negotiations with the Kirk’s central services committee (CSC) for almost five months over how an £80,000 pot of money allotted for an annual pay rise should be shared out among 227 employees at its offices in George Street.

Though it only has around 80 members in the headquarters, Unite has collective bargaining powers for the staff as a whole.

The majority of staff employed there carry out the administrative work involved in running the church in Scotland.

Striking during the General Assembly would be likely to cause disruption to the event, which hundreds of the church’s most senior figures attend.

According to the union, the church favoured across-the-board pay rises, with £300 handed to every employee or all receiving a 1 per cent pay increase.

The union said it wanted the extra cash to go to the lowest paid.

Gillian McKay, Unite regional officer, said: “We consulted every employee, not just our members. The overall opinion was that more money should go to those at the lower end of the pay scale than those at the top of it.

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“The bottom of the scale is something like £17,000 while the top of the scale are earning £70,000.”

Staff, she said, concluded that the “best and fairest” way to share it was to was to give those in the bottom grade £350, those in the middle £300, and the top band £250.

Unite met CSC vice-convener Philip Craig two weeks ago when they were told that senior management had decided that was not acceptable and all employees were to receive £300.

Last week, the union was told that this rise had been imposed.

Mr Craig said that “the award followed four months of negotiations with Unite which the committee believes were carried out in good faith by all sides”.

He said that CSC’s final award was the equivalent to a 1.7 per cent annual pay rise for lower paid staff, compared to 0.4 per cent for higher earners.