Bins overflow with rubbish in Edinburgh as binmen begin 12-day strike

Bins overflow with rubbish in Edinburgh as binmen in the Scottish capital begin 12-day strike demanding higher pay during world -famous festival

  • The strike affects bin collections, street cleaning and closed recycling centres
  • It comes at the same time as Edinburgh Fringe which draws visitors to the city
  • Unions have been offered 5% after rejecting 2% and 3.5% pay offers by leaders 

Bins has been pictured overflowing with rubbish in Edinburgh as rubbish collectors begin their 12-day strike as residents are warned of ‘significant disruption’. 

Visitors to the Edinburgh Fringe in the Scottish city will likely encounter mounds of rubbish for the next two weeks after workers demanded higher pay, affecting bin collections and street cleaning as well as closing recycling centres. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously called on council leaders to make a 5% pay offer to council workers to avoid further strikes hitting other local government services.

Hundreds of GMB and Unite members were offered a 5% increase in wages on Friday after previously rejecting two per cent and 3.5 per cent offers.

It is unclear whether they will accept this latest pay increase which will is set to be funded with an additional £140million funding from the Scottish Government.

The bin strike started on Thursday and will last until 30 August.  

Bins has been pictured overflowing with rubbish in Edinburgh as rubbish collectors begin their 12-day strike as residents are warned of ‘significant disruption’. Pictured: Today

A source told the Edinburgh News : ‘It was agreed to put forward five per cent to the trade unions and see if that can help move the situation. 

‘We’re going to have to find a bit more, but we’ve also asked that we continue our discussion with the Deputy First Minister to look at flexibility about things like how we finance debt and using the council’s allocated grant more flexibly.’

But GMB and Unite have not said whether they will accept. However the source continued: ‘It’s a serious offer and I don’t know what will happen if they don’t accept it. I don’t think there is wriggle room after this for anybody unless the government come forward with new plans.’

Cosla, who is doing the negotiation on the part of the local governments in Scotland, said through its resources spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann: ‘Following leaders’ special meeting today they have mandated me to move forward with our trade union partners on the basis of an offer that raises the overall value to five per cent and in addition raises the Scottish Local Government Living Wage to £10.50.

‘In doing so, Leaders have reaffirmed the need for a discussion with Scottish Government on how they can support councils by providing flexibilities and long-term funding support. This will limit the risk to public services and the impact on communities.’

On Thursday, picket lines were organised at waste and recycling centres across the capital and a rally was held outside the city chambers after the strike formally began at 5am.

Visitors to the Edinburgh Fringe in the Scottish city will likely encounter mounds of rubbish after workers demanded higher pay, affecting bin collections, street and closing recycling centres. Pictured: Piles by the station

Speaking at the city chambers, Unite branch convener Graeme Smith said: ‘Staff are feeling very angry about the pay offer. We were being offered 2% originally, which is an insult.

‘Cosla then came back five months later and increased that to 3.5%. 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 and household pick-ups would not take place during the strike, with recycling centres also closed to the public.

Mr Smith continued: ‘Inevitably, the waste will pile up.

‘There’s a huge impact, it’s a significant action for significant times.

‘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.’

Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day attended the rally outside the city chambers on Thursday in support of the striking workers.

He said: ‘There will be disruption. 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 the council had published advice on storing waste at home while the strike was ongoing.

Asked what he was doing to resolve the dispute, Mr Day said he had written to the Deputy First Minister and called for an earlier meeting of Cosla to discuss a new pay offer which was subsequently held on Friday. 

The Labour councillor said on Thursday: ‘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.’

A recovery plan would be put in place to return the city to normal after the strike’s conclusion, he said.

Hundreds of GMB and Unite members who work for local councils are now believed to have been offered a 5% increase in wages after previously rejecting two per cent and 3.5 per cent offers. Pictured: Some more rubbish

Mr Day added: ‘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.’

Following the rally outside the city chambers, on Thursday, the cleansing workers marched through the city centre to join another picket line at Waverley station – where the RMT union held another gathering as part of a separate industrial dispute.

Earlier, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Unite’s local government representatives have rejected the paltry offer of 3.5% from Cosla.

‘The offer is nowhere near good enough.

‘Council leaders across Scotland including Edinburgh and Glasgow are publicly on the record acknowledging this reality, so why should our members even consider it?’

Strikes across 14 other local authorities in Scotland are expected to follow from August 24 until August 31.

Street cleaning has also been affected by the industrial dispute  

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured on Wednesday) has previously called on council leaders to make a 5% pay offer to staff to avert further strikes which are also planned

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: ‘As the employers, these pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities and unions – the Scottish Government has no formal role.

‘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%.

‘The Scottish Government must balance a fixed budget with very significant competing demands as a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis and the inaction of the UK Government.

‘The main tax levers are set for the whole year and cannot be changed. With no power to borrow for this spend, the extra £140 million has got to come from somewhere else within the budget and no more funding can be offered.’

Cosla reiterated its statement from Friday. Resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said: ‘Leaders have reaffirmed their aspiration to make an offer greater than the initial 2% but note the risk that public services will not recover, jobs will be affected and communities will see services reduced as local government budgets are unable to sustain the long term pressures they have been under.

‘Leaders continue to call on the Scottish Government to provide funding and flexibilities to enable an offer beyond the monies provided to date.

‘As such, we will be seeking to make an improved offer via the appropriate negotiating mechanisms as soon as possible.’

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