Edinburgh bin strike: Stoppage continues as unions reject latest below-inflation offer

Edinburgh’s bin strike is to continue after the unions rejected the latest five per cent pay offer for council staff.
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And the action will now also spread to 13 other local authorities across Scotland, including East Lothian and West Lothian, from tomorrow.

The Unite union said for more than half of local government workers, the offer meant an increase of between £900 and £1,250 a year, compared to the offer a £1,925 flat-rate pay offer made to council workers in England.

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The decision, following talks with the councils’ umbrella organisation Cosla, means rubbish will continue to pile up in the streets during the Capital’s busiest month of the year.

City council leader Cammy Day said he was disappointed no agreement had been reached and called on the Scottish Government to make more money available to fund a “fair” pay rise.

He said: "Of course I’m disappointed and I apologise to the city and to our visitors. It’s impacting on the city, it’s impacting on our internationally renowned festivals.

“This is a national crisis playing out in Edinburgh’s streets during our busiest most important time of the year. And while this clearly shows the value of our waste teams’ work, it also demonstrates a national failure to find an acceptable resolution. We need the Scottish Government to get back round the table.

The bin strike - due to last until August 30 - is happening at Edinburgh's busiest time of year.The bin strike - due to last until August 30 - is happening at Edinburgh's busiest time of year.
The bin strike - due to last until August 30 - is happening at Edinburgh's busiest time of year.
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“I’ve written to Nicola Sturgeon today to invite her to join me and the unions for a walk around the city centre to see first-hand the impact this is having on our capital city, the driving force of the Scottish economy.”

He said he understood that a meeting was due tomorrow between Cosla’s SNP leadership and Deputy First Minister John Swinney and the unions had asked to take part but had been refused.

“It’s disappointing the Cosla leadership team or the Deputy First Minister (DFM) has rejected the request from the trade unions to be part of that discussion. We call on the Cosla leadership and the DFM to buckle down and get an offer on the table that is acceptable and at least allows the unions to take forward a consultative ballot with their members and pause the action in the Capital and the action due to take place elsewhere.”

Unite said at the talks in Glasgow, it was made clear by Cosla there would be no additional money allocated to fund an improved pay deal.

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The overall five per cent offer would mean the lowest-paid council workers received 7.36 per cent taking them to a new Scottish Local Government Living Wage of £10.50.

But the union pointed out the RPI inflation rate was at a 40-year high of 12.3 per cent and CPI inflation was predicted to reach 18 per cent by the start of next year, while energy bills were expected to hit £3,554 a year in October and possibly top £5,300 in April next year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s local government committee recognises that Cosla’s pay offer does not address the cost of living crisis in any way for the vast majority of workers. Unite makes no apologies for standing up for our council members across Scotland because they deserve better. We will fully support them in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

And Unite industrial officer, Wendy Dunsmore added: “The five per cent today will not be worth the same in a matter of months when the cost of living crisis will bite even harder. The offer on the table just doesn’t help the lowest paid make ends meet.

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"This dispute will continue to escalate to a point where it could now go beyond the winter causing months of massive nationwide disruption. The blame for this will lie squarely at the doors of Cosla and the Scottish Government.”

Keir Greenaway, Scotland senior organiser for the GMB union, said: “The fact that Cosla couldn’t even commit to the basic principle of a flat rate offer which would help the lowest paid is bitterly disappointing and frankly shameful. Strike action in Edinburgh continues.

“Our members are angry about the lack of value being shown to them by political leaders and scared about the prospect of pay that doesn’t confront a cost-of-living crisis that’s getting worse by the week."

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