Edinburgh council adjourns committee meeting in show of support with striking bin workers

Councillors scrapped a scheduled meeting of the Capital’s transport and environment committee today in solidarity with bin workers as they began a 12-day strike over pay.

The bin strike began today and is due to continue until August 30.
The bin strike began today and is due to continue until August 30.

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Committee convener Scott Arthur proposed the move, saying the workers were asking for nothing more than a fair pay rise and arguing only the Scottish Government could resolve the issue.

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Waste collections have been suspended and recycling centres closed as a result of the industrial action, which follows unions’ rejection of a 3.5 per cent pay offer made by local government umbrella organisation Cosla at a time when inflation is over 10 per cent. Strikes are due to begin in other council areas next week.

The committee meeting had been moved online so councillors did not have to cross a picket line at the City Chambers, but before business began Cllr Arthur proposed adjourning until a date in the future. He was backed not only by the other committee member from the minority Labour administration, but also by SNP and Green councillors and one Tory, while the two Lib Dems and one Tory voted against the move.

Cllr Arthur said: “I think that sends a powerful signal to the workers on strike that we're supporting them and sends a clear signal to the Scottish Government that they have to engage constructively in bringing this dispute to an end.”

Before the vote, he warned of a “crisis” ahead and spoke of his concern as waste begins to pile up due to the dispute.

He told the committee he had visited the picket line at the council’s Russell Road depot earlier in the morning and spoken to strikers there.

He said: “It's worth remembering that this council, many times in the last administration, thanked these staff for the work they did to get us through the pandemic. Early in the pandemic some of the risks the staff were taking were essentially unknown because we didn't understand the transmission properly at that stage.

“But thanks are not enough and I want to make clear I personally support the trade union in their call for a fair pay rise, nothing more than a fair pay rise, and I acknowledge that while the UK Government can do more, only the Scottish Government an solve this crisis – and it will soon become a crisis as waste builds up in the city. That's something that really does concern me.

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“I hope all councillors will support the council staff and also call on the Scottish Government to act to deal with this. The reality is, however, that the Scottish Government is unlikely to act until the strike goes national, so we are in for a difficult few days in Edinburgh before there is a resolution.

“In respect for what the council staff are going through just now, the ones who are on strike, and their wider goal for a fair pay rise, that's why this meeting was moved online. I didn't want to ask anyone to cross a picket line and I'm glad no-one has complained about that. But I realise that some people still feel uncertain about crossing a virtual picket line by holding the meeting onlline to avoid that physical picket line so I want to move to adjourn this meeting to some date in the future, probably no earlier than August 22, if we can move forward by then but it seems unlikely.”

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