Edinburgh bin strike: hope that talks today can pave way for settlement

Talks are due to take place today which could pave the way for an end to Edinburgh’s bin strike.

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As rubbish continues to mount in the streets, union leaders are scheduled to meet representatives of Cosla, the local government umbrella organisation, following the improved offer of a five per cent pay rise put forward on Friday.

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The city’s waste and recycling walked out on Thursday and are due to stay on strike until Tuesday August 30.

Both Unite and the GMB indicated they wanted any pay increase to be distributed in a way that gave the lower-paid staff a bigger rise rather than it being five per cent across the board. But both unions said the strike in the Capital would carry on in the meantime and others due to start tomorrow would still go ahead.

Unite industrial officer Alison Maclean said: "Unite’s local government committee has reaffirmed that the strike action ongoing in Edinburgh and scheduled to take place in a further 14 councils continues as planned. There remains insignificant detail on the five per cent pay offer, and what this in reality means for the lowest paid workers. At this moment the offer from Cosla remains a vague aspirational pledge but Unite can’t take anything to our wider membership unless we have specifics and guarantees.”

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She said Unite would reassess the situation after the meeting with Cosla. “Our members have taken the brave stance of taking strike action to get the pay rise they deserve and we are determined to ensure that this happens.”

Following a meeting of GMB Scotland’s local government committee, Keir Greenaway, the union’s Scotland senior organiser, said: “Our members want clarity from Cosla about whether this proposal comes with the assurance of a flat-rate award, a key demand of the union pay claim.

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An overflowing bin in Princes Street - tourists are said to be taking photographs of Edinburgh's growing mounds of rubbish.

“The prospect of the highest paid getting the biggest cash increases in any offer would be unacceptable, let alone one that is still well below inflation. In the meantime all existing and planned strike action remains on.”

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Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped the improved pay offer would prove enough to end the "disruption" in Edinburgh at a time when the Capital is the "centre of the cultural world". She said: "Nobody wants to see the kind of disruption and impact of strikes that many people are witnessing in Edinburgh right now."

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs, who urged the First Minister to intervene to end the dispute, claimed there had been an "astounding" lack of contingency planning ahead of the strike. He said: "More could have been done to prepare the city, such as working with private companies or providing additional bins. The rubbish piling up on our streets risks damaging our city's reputation. These annual festivals are supposed to be a source of pride, not humiliation.

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"The SNP Government must get around the table and fix this before it's too late. They cannot stand by and watch while a situation that they created by giving councils a poor funding settlement spirals out of control."

Scottish Lib Dem leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said there were now "mountains of filth piling up".

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He added: "We all know that August is perhaps the most important month in Edinburgh's calendar. This situation risks jeopardising the capital's reputation among festival visitors from across the UK and the world. Refuse workers are being hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis. The Scottish Government must fund local authorities so that they can afford to give workers a proper pay rise and put an end to this sorry mess."

But Edinburgh North and Leith SNP MP Deidre Brock said it was Edinburgh’s Labour administration that needed to act. "Residents and tourists alike need to see a plan from Labour to clean up the Capital. All we've seen so far is ineptitude. This is not just a shameful eyesore but is a potential environmental and safety hazard on our streets."

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