Edinburgh council staff 'very angry' over pay offer as bin workers' strike gets under way

Council staff are “very angry” about the current pay offer, a union leader has said as the Capital braced itself for the impact of the bin workers’ strike.
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Members of the Unite and GMB unions walked out at 6am on Thursday and are due to stay out until 5am on Tuesday August 30.

They have rejected a 3.5 per cent pay offer made by local government umbrella organisation Cosla at a time when the rate of inflation now stands at 10.1 per cent.

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The strikers held a rally outside the City Chambers as the action got under way. Unite branch convener Graeme Smith said: "Staff are feeling very angry about the pay offer. We were being offered 2 per cent originally, which is an insult. Cosla then came back five months later and increased that to 3.5 per cent. Again, not something we could even consider taking to the members during the cost-of-living crisis. So there's a lot of anger."

He said rubbish was already piling up in the Royal Mile. Bin collections have been suspended across the city and recycling centres are closed.

Mr Smith continued: "Inevitably, the waste will pile up. There's a huge impact, it's a significant action for significant times.

Rubbish strewn across Cockburn Street on day one of the bin workers' stoppage.Rubbish strewn across Cockburn Street on day one of the bin workers' stoppage.
Rubbish strewn across Cockburn Street on day one of the bin workers' stoppage.

"Members can't put food on the table. Come winter, they'll be choosing between heating and eating. So that's why we've been forced to take such dire measures."

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The first signs of the strike’s impact began to appear, with businesses highlighting rubbish strewn across Cockburn Street in the city centre. Garry Clark, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Some degree of detritus is expected during the Festivals, but normally the council teams would be out dealing with this early in the day. This is day one of the strike and it's looking a bit of a state already.”

He said the city centre was Edinburgh’s shop window to the world with the first full-scale Festival since the pandemic attracting visitors. “This should be a great time for the city, but if we’ve got mess on the street, things not getting picked up, bags bursting and bins overflowing, it's not a great look and not great news for businesses.”

He said he would like the council to implement "some kind of contingency to at least try to tackle some of the worst of the mess".

“I'm sure there will be a community response, including small businesses, to try and improve the city and they will try to make sure Edinburgh is looking as good as it can, but ultimately it's the council's responsibility.”

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City council leader Cammy Day said disruption was inevitable. “The council and trade unions have agreed some services will continue for life and limb or emergencies but primarily communal waste and individual waste bins won't be collected for the next two weeks."He said he had written to the Deputy First Minister and called for an earlier meeting of Cosla to discuss a new pay offer. "Of course, we will try and find more money, but it needs the Government and Cosla to get around the table and find a solution to this as quickly as possible.

"None of us want strike action, but when we've got a Government failing to meet the demands of the workforce and Cosla leaders stretched for cash across every local authority in Scotland, we need them all to get around the table and find a solution."

The Scottish Government said the pay negotiations were a matter for local authorities and unions and the government had no formal role. A spokesperson said: "We urge Cosla to urgently reconsider its position and match the Scottish Government's additional £140 million that would be required to increase the pay offer to 5 per cent.”

Colsa said it continued to call on the Scottish Government to provide “funding and flexibilities to enable an offer beyond the monies provided to date”. “We will be seeking to make an improved offer via the appropriate negotiating mechanisms as soon as possible."

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