Critics slam bonus paid to bin men after strike

Collect: Bin men took part in the national strike on November 30. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Collect: Bin men took part in the national strike on November 30. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Council workers in the Capital were paid bonuses for catching up with work they missed while taking part in a national strike, it has emerged.

City council chiefs put on extra bin collection services on the weekend after the November 30 national strike across the public sector in order to catch up with work missed from the striking staff – at a cost of £12,000 to the taxpayer.

Some union workers, who were eligible to apply for compensation from their union to cover the wages they missed out on during the Wednesday off work, then worked overtime over the weekend.

And those who agreed to a special Sunday shift were rewarded with time-and-a-half.

Conservative councillor Iain Whyte, who represents the Inverleith ward, said: “It is £12,000 the council would have saved by not paying people that were on strike.

“They have then called people in and some of these workers have effectively got a bonus for work they should have been doing on the strike day.

“I am outraged that this is normal policy for the council, and they should review this in case there are more strike days.You should not be rewarding people for going on strike – it is a breach of contract after all and you should not get a bonus for that.”

Over the weekend, 105 refuse collection staff were drafted in on December 1 to catch up on missed collections, while a further 39 worked on the Sunday.

The Saturday workers were paid their normal rate of pay – effectively what they would have earned on the previous Wednesday if they had not decided to join the strike – while the Sunday workers were paid at time-and-a-half because they were working more hours than their contracted 36 hours. The city council said that, despite the extra payments, the overall cost of the work carried out was slightly lower than if the full staff had been in on the Wednesday.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city’s environment leader, said: “Keeping Edinburgh clean is one of the council’s key priorities. We decided to do refuse collections at the weekend in order to minimise disruption to residents. There was no additional cost to the taxpayer as the cost of weekend working was offset by the saving made from not paying staff for the strike day.”

It is thought that no workers apart from refuse collectors were given extra shifts to “catch up” on work missed during the strike.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of trade union Unison, said: “People went in and did overtime on the Saturday and got their straight rate then got overtime for the Sunday, which was an extra day. They did not get overtime until they had done the equivalent of a full week first.

“These guys have signed up to predominantly changed terms, so for a Conservative councillor to attack them seems a bit like sour grapes because the service wasn’t privatised as they wanted.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com