250 Edinburgh waste workers to walk-out over ‘derisory’ pay offer

Unite the union can confirm that its members in all waste, recycling and street cleaning services in the nation’s capital city are set to walk-out in response to a ‘derisory’ 2 per cent local government pay offer.

The days of strike action in Edinburgh will begin on 18 August and end on 30 August the day following the end of the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals.

It is estimated that around 250 Unite members based in Edinburgh will participate in the ‘first wave’ of strike action. Unite will be the largest trade union in terms of members involved in this initial phase of council strike action.

Unite will also be imminently finalising strike dates to hit waste, recycling and street cleaning services in councils where it has a strike mandate in a ‘second wave’, as part of a coordinated campaign to persuade the Scottish Government and COSLA to make a decent pay offer. This includes Scotland’s largest cities Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow.

The action set to specifically impact schools across Scotland is expected to begin in early September. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members can’t tolerate derisory pay offers any longer from COSLA or the Scottish Government who ultimately control the purse strings. We believe the public of Edinburgh and across Scotland will support our members in taking this stand because no worker should be forced to accept a 'take it or leave it' real terms pay cut. Our members simply have no choice but to take strike action in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

Unite has repeatedly warned both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) that the 2 per cent offer is unacceptable amid the deepening cost of living crisis with inflation soaring to 11.8 per cent.

Unite welcomed movement by COSLA in calling for a higher pay offer of 5 per cent if the Scottish Government was prepared to allocate extra cash to fund an improved offer. However, the trade union is demanding that council leaders fight harder for a fairer share of resources for local government workers.

Local government emerged as the biggest loser from the latest Scottish Government spending review with its funding frozen for the rest of the parliament.

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite industrial officer, added:  “Unite’s members in Edinburgh are now set to take strike action in a matter of days and this will severely impact the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals. The blame for this situation lies squarely with COSLA and the Scottish Government who have continued to undervalue and treat council workers with contempt. Professional and hard-working people who turned up to work throughout the pandemic are being told to take a brutal real terms pay cut. It’s a shocking example of how those in power are now completely out of touch with working people in this country.”  

In late July, Unite confirmed that its membership in 25 councils rejected the 2 per cent pay offer and voted for strike action, while its members employed by Tayside Contracts also voted in favour. The ballot results could see 26 councils in total being potentially impacted by action.

It is reported that more than half of Scotland’s 250,000 council workers are earning less than £25,000 a year for a 37-hour week. Unite previously warned all new council leaders if they do not act to improve pay, they will see strikes this summer.


Notes to Editor:

Full details of the strike mandate in Scottish councils

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Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty.