Council / Unions call on council to reconsider coronation holiday decision

King Charles III and Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter in Lerwick in 2021. Photo: SIC

FOUR trade unions have teamed up to call on Shetland Islands Council (SIC) to reconsider its decision to reject an additional public holiday for its staff on the Monday after the King’s coronation in May.

Local representatives said council staff have “worked tirelessly” in recent years and that an extra day off would be well deserved.

It comes after members of the policy and resources committee made the decision at a meeting on Monday.

The cost of awarding a public holiday, as well as the prospect of children losing more time in school, were the reasons behind the decision.

But local representatives of trade unions EIS, UNISON, Unite and Nautilus – which together represent a significant number of SIC staff – have now written to councillors to express their disappointment at the move.

“Although we understand the financial challenges faced by the council, we do not consider these to be any greater than those experienced by other councils across Scotland and the UK,” they wrote.


“It is therefore surprising that, to our knowledge, Shetland Islands Council is the only local authority denying their employees the opportunity to take part in what is in effect a national holiday.”

A report to councillors on Monday said that the cost of awarding a public holiday would amount to more than £90,000.

The council is warning of changes to services in a bid to cut costs in March’s budget setting, with a financial gap of nearly £5 million identified.

The day in question is Monday 8 May, two days after King Charles’ actual coronation.

UK Government has called an additional bank holiday on Monday 8 May, during which people are encouraged to volunteer in their local areas.

But in Scotland, national holidays are a devolved matter for councils to decide on.

The letter from the unions said council employees in Shetland have “worked tirelessly during arguably the most challenging period of recent history”.

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“This included working through a global pandemic, often in the front line putting themselves at considerable risk,” it added.

“In addition, many areas of the council are currently understaffed, with council senior officers quick to recognise the pressure this places on the service and the staff working there.

“Surely then an additional day’s holiday would be well deserved for such loyal, hardworking council staff.

“Mental health should be a priority of the council. If the council is serious in recognising the hard work of its employees and being protective of their mental health and wellbeing, then reversing the decision would be a step in the right direction to demonstrating this commitment.

“Moreover, days lost to work-related stress will have a greater impact on service provision and council finances than the granting of one day’s additional holiday.”


The union reps also warned against using the recent teaching strike days, which closed most schools in Shetland, as part of any justification for the decision when it came to lost learning.

However, the strike action was not mentioned in the council chamber on Monday.

Instead, recent disruption to weather – which saw pupils lose a number of days in school in December and January – was brought up.

The council previously said staff who are scheduled to work on 8 May and who wish to join the celebrations can book annual leave in the usual way.

Managers are encouraged to grant leave where possible, in line with the needs of the service.

The letter from the unions was signed by local EIS secretary Matthew Moss, UNISON branch chair Susanne Gens, Unite branch secretary Alistair Christie-Henry and Andrew Thompson of Nautilus.

Shetland Islands Council was contacted for a response to the union letter but said it would not comment on staffing matters in the media.

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