Bin collectors to go on strike during Edinburgh Fringe

Rubbish in The Grassmarket in Edinburgh in 2022
A bin strike two years ago saw rubbish piles grow all over the city [BBC]

Waste and recycling staff in Edinburgh have voted to strike during the Fringe over a pay dispute.

The GMB and Unite unions said the current pay offer from Cosla to local government workers fell significantly short of what they deserved.

Local government body Cosla defended its pay offer and urged the unions to reconsider the decision to take industrial action.

A bin strike was held for 12 days over the Edinburgh Festival Fringe two years ago which led to a huge backlog of waste littering the capital's streets.

Brian Robertson, Edinburgh secretary for Unite, said: "It's about local government pay for the whole of Scotland.

"These brave workers will be coming out on strike, losing wages, unless the Scottish government comes to the table and we can negotiate with them and with Cosla to get a decent pay rise for all local government workers in Scotland."

Cosla has tabled an offer which runs from 1 April to 30 September next year.

It would result in a 2.2% uplift from 1 April, with a further 2% uplift taking effect from 1 October.

But Mr Robertson said it was "not a strong offer" and the decision to strike during the festival season was "absolutely necessary".

He added: "We do not want to do it. We don't want to make a mess of the festival - we made a mess of it two years ago.

"We want the Scottish government to come to the table before we have to do it.

"The vast majority of local government workers earn far less than the median wage in this city - many of them are working on less than £20,000 a year."

brian robertson from unite
Brian Robertson said industrial action over the pay dispute was "necessary" [BBC]

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, said: “If Cosla can’t do better, it’s time for them to bring the Scottish government to the table to fund an improved offer.

“If not, then it’s likely that the same disruption during 2022’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival will happen again this year.

"Hundreds of millions are poured into the city during the Fringe, but political leaders claim they can’t find enough money to value frontline service workers."

The GMB said its members in waste services in 13 Scottish councils had achieved a mandate for strike action, including in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Fife, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, and Stirling.

The bin strike in August 2022 lasted 12 days [BBC]

A Cosla spokeswoman said: “Cosla has made a strong offer at the limits of affordability for councils. In the context of lowering inflation and a “flat cash” budget settlement from Scottish government, it remains important to reward our valued workforce appropriately.

"We urge our unions to reconsider their decision to reject the offer.

"We are disappointed that industrial action is being contemplated by our unions and concerned that it appears to be targeted at waste services, once again raising potential public health risks."

She said the Scottish government respected the union's role in seeking the best pay settlement and it remained committed to doing the best by its workforce.