A SENIOR union official says the the strike which will close schools and nurseries in Inverclyde next week could have been avoided.

Non-teaching support staff will walk out on Wednesday, taking a fourth day of strike action in a dispute over a pay-rise.

Around 750 Unison members across the district will be involved, with picket lines outside schools.

They have rejected an offer of 5.5 per cent, around £2,000 extra a year, from COSLA but two other unions have signed up to accept the deal on the table.

Robin Taggart, Unison Inverclyde branch secretary, warns there could be more disruption to come.

He said: "This is part of the next wave of action, which will see different Unison council branches taking strike action each week in the lead up to Christmas.

"This is not what we or our members want to do and this action and consequential disruption to parents and children is entirely avoidable."

Mr Taggart says what is being offered is not entirely clear and that this is behind the deadlock.

He said: "One of the issues why the offer was rejected is a lack of clarity on the value of the offer, including the refusal of COSLA to provide us with new pay scales and hourly rates, as would be normal.

"While most of the pay offer has been backdated to the first of April 2023, there is an element that comes into effect on the first of January 2024.

"In simple terms it means £2,000 or five and a half per cent."

The union man says most of the Unison members involved are employed as pupil support assistants, admin and clerical staff and early years provision.

He says the union's pay claim sought an agreement that COSLA would set out a clear timeline for the introduction of a minimum hourly rate of £15.

He said: "COSLA was committed to this as part of last year’s settlement but we are no further forward as to when this will be implemented.

"This sets the tone for future pay and grading structures."

Some 22,000 Unison members took part in the last wave of industrial action across Scotland, which closed schools here for four days.

This next wave affects schools and nurseries in Inverclyde, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire being affected.

Robin said: "Our senior negotiators are talking to COSLA and the Scottish Government.

"It's not just COSLA who are part of the solution to this dispute. The Scottish Government need to help councils to resolve this.

"The Scottish Government  say they don't have the money, yet they will spend hundreds of millions of pounds freezing council tax next year."

The two other main council unions - Unite and the GMB - accepted the pay offer earlier this month.

Council leader Stephen McCabe said: "Implementing the pay offer in full for all staff from 1 April 2023 would require additional funding to be found by councils and or the Scottish Government.

"Council leaders share Unison’s ambition to raise the Scottish local government living wage to £15 an hour. 

"Our difficulty in committing to a firm timeframe for this is entirely down to the uncertainty over future levels of funding we will receive from the Scottish Government and our ability to raise additional income from council tax.

"I share Robin’s concern that the proposed council tax freeze will mean less funding for pay next year and an increased likelihood that we will face another pay dispute and further strikes."

All primary schools will close and secondaries will be shut for S1-S3. The council says it plans to open St Columba's High in Gourock for S4-S6 pupils. 

Standalone nurseries are expected to open as normal.