02 July 2024

Rubbish will pile up without improved pay offer, union warns

02 July 2024

Edinburgh faces a repeat of the 2022 bin strike unless workers receive an improved pay offer, a union has warned.

The capital is one of 13 councils in Scotland where waste and recycling workers affiliated with the GMB union have voted in favour of industrial action.

GMB Scotland said no meaningful talks with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) had taken place since May, when the latest pay offer was rejected.

It said Cosla was “counting down the clock” on pay talks, and accused it of “blocking” Scottish Government intervention in the dispute.

It called on the body to return to the table with an improved offer, warning that a failure to do so could result in bins overflowing in Edinburgh at a time when tourists are flocking to the city for the annual Festival Fringe.

We have no interest in political games when so many are struggling

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, said: “Year after year, these talks have been needlessly drawn out. That leaves our members – typically the lowest paid working on the frontline of our services – without the pay rise they need. Inflation may be stabilising, but can anyone say they feel the difference?

“Council leaders refuse to have meaningful talks – all while blocking the Scottish Government’s intervention to deliver a pay offer that matches our members’ value. They are counting down the clock while our members go without.

“We hear time and time again that Scotland does public services better, but that’s not the case when the Conservatives down south have already beaten Cosla’s offer. If Cosla can’t do better, it’s time for them to bring the Scottish Government to the table to fund an improved offer.

“If not, then it’s likely that the same disruption during 2022’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival will happen again this year. Hundreds of millions are poured into the city during the Fringe, but political leaders claim they can’t find enough money to value frontline service workers.

“Council leaders have wasted months and they’ve wasted opportunities. Our members have no time for waste which is why rubbish will pile up in councils across Scotland if a suitable offer isn’t received. We have no interest in political games when so many are struggling.”

GMB Scotland said it had also received mandates for strike action from waste services workers in Aberdeen, Fife, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities as employers and unions – the Scottish Government has no formal role.

“The Scottish Government urges all parties involved to work together constructively and reach an agreement which is fair for the workforce and affordable for employers.”

A Cosla spokesperson said: “Cosla has made a strong offer at the limits of affordability for councils, a position reiterated by council leaders at their meeting last Friday.

“In the context of lowering inflation and a “flat cash” budget settlement from Scottish Government, it remains important to reward our valued workforce appropriately. We urge our unions to reconsider their decision to reject the offer.

“We are disappointed that industrial action is now being planned by some of our trade unions in some council areas and concerned that it is to be targeted at waste services, once again raising potential public health risks.

The GMB union has threatened a repeat of the 2022 bin strikes (Andrew Milligan/PA). (PA Archive)

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