Edinburgh bin strike: rubbish mounts, bins overflowing and streets strewn with litter

The strike by Edinburgh’s waste and recycling workers is having a major impact, with overflowing bins and piles of uncollected rubbish across the Capital.
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Streets are strewn with litter, mounds of refuse have built up next to giant wheelie bins and burst bin bags are adding to the problem.

The stoppage comes at one of the city’s busiest times of the year, as its population swells with visitors tor the Festival, and there are concerns about how the unsightly mess could affect Edinburgh’s image.

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The strike began early on Thursday morning and is due to last for 12 days until first thing on Tuesday August 30. But there are hopes of talks which could lead to a settlement following an improved pay offer on Friday.

The three main council unions – Unite, the GMB and Unison – rejected the initial two per cent offer from Cosla, the umbrella organisation for Scottish local authorities, and also an increased 3.5 per cent offer. Inflation rose last week to 10.1 per cent, according to the Consumer Prices Index, the highest for 40 years.

But the latest move saw Cosla put forward a new proposal for council workers, which would mean an average rise of five per cent but with the extra cash potentially distributed in a way to give lower-paid staff a bigger boost. That could mean an eight or nine per cent rise for lower-paid workers and a smaller increase for their higher-paid colleagues.

Edinburgh has suspended waste collections and closed its recycling centres and is advising residents to store their rubbish at home.

An overflowing bin at Waverley Bridge.An overflowing bin at Waverley Bridge.
An overflowing bin at Waverley Bridge.
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Similar strikes are due to begin in 14 other councils across Scotland on Wednesday and last until August 31.

Unite industrial officer Alison Maclean said: "It has taken Cosla over five months to make an offer which we can take to our members for consideration. While the five per cent offer is an improvement, it is important to emphasise that it comes at a time when broader inflation has now hit a 40-year high at 12.3 per cent [according to the Retail Prices Index]. Unite's local government committee will urgently consider this latest offer. At this juncture the strikes for next week continue as planned.”

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.”

And Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland head of local government said: “We welcome the fact there appears to be more money on the table but we are a long way from a formal pay offer which would provide clarity over what workers will receive in their pay packets, and on which we can consult our members.

And rubbish piles up next to this giant wheelie bin at the Meadows.And rubbish piles up next to this giant wheelie bin at the Meadows.
And rubbish piles up next to this giant wheelie bin at the Meadows.
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“We all want to avoid industrial action, and we will get around the table with Cosla as soon as possible, but until we have a clear pay offer our planned industrial action will continue and dates for school strikes will be notified in the coming days.”

Garry Clark, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said Edinburgh needed to look good as the Festival returned fully for the first time after Covid. “It's our shop window to the world. Edinburgh has reopened. We want to encourage people to spend time out and about, not being put off by all the rubbish.”