Edinburgh set for bin strike at height of Festival after refuse workers reject 2 per cent pay offer

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Bins could go unemptied with rubbish piling up in streets when Edinburgh’s Festival is at its peak after workers in the council’s waste and recycling operation voted to strike in response to a 2 per cent pay offer.

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Union leaders said unless the Scottish Government and local authority umbrella organisation Cosla proposed a significantly improved pay rise the walk-out was likely to begin in the middle of next month.

Industrial action is due to take place in councils across Scotland after three local government unions – Unison, Unite and GMB – balloted their members.

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In some authorities, the action will include schools and early years services, though these areas are not expected to be affected in Edinburgh.

A halt to bin collections by refuse workers, represented mainly by Unite and GMB, is likely to be the most visible impact of the strikes in the Capital.

Council leader Cammy Day said: “We’re aware of potential industrial action by members of the Unite and GMB unions and are planning ahead to mitigate any disruption to essential council services should it go ahead.

“I would strongly urge the Scottish Government and Cosla to work with them to find a solution and avert any action.”

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Bins are set to go unemptied in the CapitalBins are set to go unemptied in the Capital
Bins are set to go unemptied in the Capital

The three unions have asked for a £3,000 increase and a £12 an hour rate as a minimum for all council workers.

Cosla leaders will meet on Friday and Unison said they “must” put forward an improved offer to avoid disruption to services.

Johanna Baxter, Unison head of local government, said: “Council workers south of the border have been offered a flat-rate uplift of £1,925, which for those on the lowest pay equates to a 10.5 per cent increase.

“You have to wonder why council workers north of the border have only been offered a measly 2 per cent increase when the cost of living continues to spiral.”

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GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway called the 2 per cent “a shameful proposal”.

“It’s worth less than a tenner a week extra for those earning £25,000 or under, and it will turn a cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophe for many workers and their families.

“Two years ago, these workers were applauded on the doorstep by political leaders, but now they are being told to suffer massive real terms pay cuts ahead of a brutal winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and energy bills over £3,000."

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy called on Nicola Sturgeon to intervene to prevent the “catastrophic” strikes going ahead. He said: “The root cause of this problem is the SNP Government - because they have systematically underfunded Scotland's local authorities for years, making it impossible for councils to meet wage demands.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers noted and respected the results of the ballots.

"Local government workers play a crucial role in our communities and are integral to our recovery from the pandemic.

"Although the Scottish Government has no formal role in the national, local government pay negotiations, both the Government and Cosla are working to jointly explore all of the options available to find solutions.

"In the meantime, the Scottish Government urges all parties to continue dialogue and seek a resolution which avoids industrial action."

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