Edinburgh clean-up begins as refuse collections resume – The Guardian

City’s waste workers return to work but Scotland’s cleansing and education sectors face strikes next week
A clean-up operation has begun in Edinburgh as waste and cleansing services resume after nearly two weeks of strike action by workers resulted in mountains of rubbish and public health warnings.
The city’s waste workers, who began striking on 18 August as part of a nationwide dispute over pay, returned to work on Tuesday in the Scottish capital. Huge piles of bin bags and takeaway waste have accumulated in many streets, attracted rats, mice and seagulls and left some thoroughfares impassible as visitor numbers in the city centre peaked for August’s arts and fringe festivals.
The strike has spread to more than 60% of local authorities across Scotland, with councils from Orkney to Inverclyde affected.
Strikes in other areas will end later this week. However, a fresh wave of industrial action in cleansing and education sectors will go ahead in many parts of Scotland next week after unions on Monday rejected the latest “unacceptable” offer from local authorities.
Hundreds of schools and nurseries will close over three days as education staff, including early years, join the strike action.
With talks to resolve the wave of disputes continuing on Tuesday, opposition parties have piled on criticised Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for seeming to favour appearances at the Edinburgh festival over resolving the crisis. Unions have accused the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), the SNP-led umbrella group for Scotland’s 32 councils, of failing to grasp the severity of the cost of living crisis.
Public Health Scotland previously warned the buildup of waste could become a risk to human health and told councils that “decontamination of public areas where bins have overflowed may be required”.
The leader of Edinburgh council, Cammy Day, said: “All of our waste and cleansing crews will return to normal service on Tuesday.
“While they’ll be working hard to catch up on collections and making every effort to collect litter across the city, we’re expecting things to take a little while to return to normal, and I’d like to thank all those living in, working in or visiting the city for their patience.
“At first we’ll be focusing street cleansing resources on the worst-affected areas of the city and to help with this we will be bringing in additional resources to supplement our in-house crews from Tuesday.
“As per Public Health Scotland’s advice, any areas that need to be decontaminated will be, as part of street cleansing duties.”
The council said additional resources would be deployed to support the clean-up effort, particularly in the city centre and other areas most affected by the strike.
After negotiations over the weekend, Unite’s local government committee rejected outright an offer from the council umbrella body Cosla, while the GMB Scotland union also turned down the deal.
Unison said it would hold a consultative ballot of members this week on the offer, and would recommend they reject it.
According to the Scottish government, the deal included a payment of at least £1,925 for council staff, with those earning £20,000 receiving £2,000.
But Unite said the payment could be as low as £989 for some employees, with 85% receiving between £1,925 and £2,000, and any payment would not be recurring.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said all options in making more funding available amid the strikes have been “exhausted”.
A GMB Scotland senior organiser, Keir Greenaway, said the unions had pushed for a flat-rate increase, rather than a rise based on a percentage of current wage, claiming Cosla tabled a deal that “only feathers the nests of service directors”.
But the Cosla resources spokesperson, Katie Hagmann, said this offer was “as good as it gets”.
Wendy Dunsmore, a Unite industrial officer, said: “The offer remains unacceptable and it represents a waste of precious time. We understand the gravity of the situation across the country but equally our members are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.”


Leave a Comment