Edinburgh bin strikes: Major clear up under way as waste and cleansing services resume
A major clear up operation is under way across Edinburgh after a first wave of strikes by council bin workers came to an end – but the piles of rubbish littering the streets of the Capital are expected to take some time to clear.
The city’s waste workers walked out on August 18 as part of a pay protest against local government, but they returned to their bin lorries and street sweepers on Tuesday (August 30) after nearly two weeks of industrial action.
City of Edinburgh Council said additional resources would be deployed to support the clean up, particularly in the centre and other areas that have been most impacted by the strike.
However, it said many residents would not have their full backlog of waste collected before the next round of action on September 6.
On Monday, two trade unions confirmed further strikes would be held after rejecting an increased pay offer.
Public Health Scotland previously warned the build-up of waste could become a risk to human health, and told councils that “decontamination of public areas where bins have overflowed may be required”.
Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said: “All of our waste and cleansing crews will return to normal service on Tuesday.
“While they’ll be working hard to catch up on collections and making every effort to collect litter across the city, we’re expecting things to take a little while to return to normal, and I’d like to thank all those living in, working in or visiting the city for their patience.
“At first we’ll be focusing street cleansing resources on the worst affected areas of the city and to help with this we will be bringing in additional resources to supplement our in-house crews from Tuesday.
“As per Public Health Scotland’s advice, any areas that need to be decontaminated will be, as part of street cleansing duties.”
After negotiations over the weekend, Unite’s local government committee rejected outright an offer from council umbrella body Cosla, while GMB Scotland also turned the deal down.
Unison said it would hold a consultative ballot of members this week on the offer, and would recommend they reject it.
According to the Scottish Government, the deal included a payment of at least £1,925 for council staff, with those earning £20,000 receiving £2,000.
But Unite said the payment could be as low as £989 for some employees, with 85% receiving between £1,925 and £2,000, and any payment would not be recurring.
GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said the unions pushed for a flat rate increase, rather than one based on a percentage of current wage, claiming that Cosla tabled a deal that “only feathers the nests of service directors”.
Mr Greenaway added that if Cosla does not return to talks “as soon as possible”, then the union’s local government committee will outline plans to “fully consult GMB members”.
But Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said this offer was “as good as it gets”.