Edinburgh bin strike: New five per cent offer to council staff

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Council staff across Scotland have been offered an average five per cent pay increase in a bid to avert further strike action.

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The move, which comes the day after Edinburgh’s bin workers walked out at the start of a planned 12-day stoppage, was agreed by council leaders this afternoon.

Talks are now expected to take place with the unions on how the increase will be distributed, with lower-paid workers potentially receiving a bigger rise, perhaps eight or nine per cent, while higher-paid staff would get a smaller increase.

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Cosla, the local government umbrella organisation, had previously upped their original two per cent offer to 3.5 per cent after the Scottish Government came up with extra cash to help fund a pay increase.

It is understood the council leaders now accept they will have to find more money from their own budgets, but will also seek talks with the government to press for further support and also increased flexibility in how they can use their finances.

One source said: “It was agreed to put forward five per cent to the trade unions and see if that can help move the situation. We’re going to have to find a bit more, but we’ve also asked that we continue our discussion withe the Deputy First Minister to look at flexibility about things like how e finance debt and using the council’s allocated grant more flexibly."

It is not clear how the unions will respond to the offer. But the source said: “It’s a serious offer and I don’t know what will happen if they don’t accept it. I don’t think there is wriggle room after this for anybody unless the government come forward with new plans.”

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Edinburgh's bin workers walked out on Thursday morning at the start of a planned 12-day stoppage.Edinburgh's bin workers walked out on Thursday morning at the start of a planned 12-day stoppage.
Edinburgh's bin workers walked out on Thursday morning at the start of a planned 12-day stoppage.

It is understood that although Labour and the SNP put forward separate motions at the Cosla meeting and the SNP one was passed, both proposed five per cent. The source said the only difference was the language about making further representations to the government.

Following the meeting, Cosla resources spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said: “Following leaders’ special meeting today they have mandated me to move forward with our trade union partners on the basis of an offer that raises the overall value to five per cent and in addition raises the Scottish Local Government Living Wage to £10.50.

“In doing so, Leaders have reaffirmed the need for a discussion with Scottish Government on how they can support councils by providing flexibilities and long-term funding support. This will limit the risk to public services and the impact on communities.”

Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day said: “Having pushed hard for a special Cosla meeting to be convened this week, I’m pleased at the positive progress we’ve made today. A formal offer of five per cent has now been made to trade unions, and a £10.50 minimum per hour rate which I hope will be considered. We will continue to push the Scottish Government to fairly fund pay awards and provide flexibility in how councils manage finances.

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“In the meantime, I would urge everyone to continue following our advice on how to deal with your waste safely and responsibly to help us manage the impact of the strike action. Please check the dedicated pages on our website and keep an eye on our social media channels, where we’ll be posting the most up-to-date information.”

Edinburgh SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “We’re pleased to see Cosla finally agree a five per cent pay offer to our hardworking staff. We hope this offer will help get Cosla and unions back around the negotiating table. Five per cent is the minimum offer our staff deserve.

“It’s regrettable that Edinburgh’s Labour leader didn’t back this position a week ago when it was proposed by SNP councillors.”

The GMB union confirmed it had received the new proposals from Cosla to continue negotiations with the unions on an offer that would achieve the overall value of a five per cent pay uplift and a minimum hourly rate of £10.50.

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GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway said: “The latest proposals will be considered by our local government committee, but the principle of a flat-rate award is a key demand of the trade union pay claim. For any offer to be deemed worthy of our members’ full consultation the biggest cash increases must go to the lowest paid.”

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