Scottish civil servants could be offered a four-day work week in exchange for pay cuts

Nicola Sturgeon

Officials said the move presents an “opportunity” to reduce spending on salaries (Image: Getty)

As part of plans to cut public service costs, Scottish public sector workers could be offered a four-day work week in exchange for a pay cut.

Documents released alongside this week’s SNP spending review detailing the need to plug an estimated £3.5 billion black hole said the move presented an “opportunity” to limit spending on salaries to reduce.

Officials said they wanted to explore the “unpaid” benefits of a reduced work week, including the “right to disconnect” by working a day less.

“In the long term, this could be an opportunity to limit the cost burden of payroll payments for employers,” the document says.

However, Scottish Conservatives called the plan a “fantasy” and said it would cut public services by 20%.

Meanwhile, unions said it was “offensive” and “ill thought out”.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 1: Nicola Sturgeon during First Ministers Questions at the Scottish Parliament on June 1, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Scottish Tories have criticized the plan (Image: Getty)

Cat Boyd, the national officer for the PCS union, which is campaigning for a four-day work week in the public sector without cut wages, told The Telegraph: “Our members bore the burden of austerity in 2010.

“Now we are seeing threats of further pay cuts for the workers who have helped keep Scotland running through the pandemic.

“Independently commissioned research has shown that a shorter work week improves productivity and well-being without requiring a pay cut.

“Every reduction in weekly working hours that leads to a drop in wages reverses the economic and personnel benefits.

“Any proposal that involves a further drop in wages combined with a reduction in working hours represents further broken promises by the Scottish Government when it comes to its own staff.”

Scotland has already pledged £10million to private companies testing four-day weeks where workers maintain wage levels.

A similar program for the public sector is set to roll out later this year, although details have not yet been released.

Kate Forbes, the SNP’s finance secretary, has insisted that continued growth in public sector workforces is “unsustainable”.

But Liz Smith, the Scottish Tories’ finance spokeswoman, described the plans as “cavalier economics” that would derail public services in the wake of the pandemic.

She said “SNP ministers are determined to push this nonsense forward,” which would further increase the spending black hole.

Separately, Boris Johnson has ordered the cutting of 90,000 public sector jobs in England to free up cash amid a cost of living crisis.

In a letter to staff ahead of the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend, the Prime Minister apologized for the uncertainty the cuts would cause but said new and better opportunities were emerging from public service ministers’ long-term ambitions.

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Justin Scacco

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