Bin strikes Scotland 2022: why are staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other areas striking - what did Cosla say?

Waste workers across the country are striking with schools and early years staff set for walkouts next

Bin strikes in Scotland are set to continue after a union rejected the latest pay offer.

Following negotiations over the weekend, Unite’s local government committee rejected an offer from Cosla, the body representing local government.

The deal, according to the union, included a non-recurring 5% payment to staff which would range from £989 to £2,000.

Strike action has been taking place in local authorities across Scotland, with more to follow.

Bins have been overflowing after a busy Fringe weekend in Edinburgh as cleansing staff continue their strike. (Credit: SWNS)

GMB Scotland members in 16 council areas were taking four days of action from Friday until Monday (29 August), coinciding with existing action in Edinburgh which has seen rubbish pile up in the streets of the capital.

Unison members in waste and recycling also joined the strike action, walking out in eight council areas for four days from 26 August.

Unite members in waste services are also staging walkouts, and the union announced a further eight days have been added to the bin strikes.

And schools and early years staff across Scotland are set to stage walkouts next month.

It was announced just prior to the second wave of strikes starting last week that a 5% pay offer by Cosla had been rejected.

Here’s everything you need to know about why the strikes are happening and how long they will continue for.

Rubbish bags have started to pile up at a recycling point in Aberdeen.

Which local authorities are affected?

Notice of strike action in education and waste services across 20 councils in Scotland has been served by Unite.

Members in waste services currently taking strike action in 14 councils will take another eight days of action from September 6 to 13, while a further five local authorities: Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Fife and North Ayrshire – will join the second phase of strike action.

The union’s members in schools and early years services across seven councils: Angus, Dundee, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, and South Lanarkshire – are also scheduled to take strike action on September 6 to 9.

Members employed by Tayside Contracts to provide catering and janitorial services in schools across Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross councils will also strike, taking the total of local authorities affected by strike action to 20.

GMB Scotland waste and recycling members are taking strike action in Aberdeen City, Angus, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Highland, Midlothian, Orkney, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Perth and Kinross and North Lanarkshire.

It said four more days of strikes in waste and recycling services will run from Wednesday September 7 to Saturday September 10, alongside three days of strike action on September 6, 7 and 8 involving GMB schools and early years services members in Glasgow City and East Renfrewshire councils.

Unison waste and recycling members are striking in Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Stirling and South Lanarkshire.

Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, one of the hotspots for the Fringe Festival, has been covered in litter as strikes continue. (Credit: SWNS)

Why are staff striking? 

Workers and trade unions GMB and Unite had been negotiating with Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), over an initial pay rise offer of 3.5%.

The unions argued that a 3.5% pay rise would create a real terms pay cut for staff and rejected the offer.

Cosla revised its offer of 3.5% pay rise to 5% following a meeting of Unite’s local government representatives committee. The group, which represents councils across Scotland, also offered a minimum hourly wage of £10.50.

Unite said the latest pay offer the offer would not be consolidated into salaries and failedto recognise the projected increase in the cost of living.

Unite industrial officer Wendy Dunsmore, said:“Unite has rejected outright the latest pay offer from COSLA. The structure of the offer continues to disproportionately and unfairly effect the lowest paid with the majority of those being women. In real terms it leaves the lowest paid workers no better-off and a significant proportion of the offer does not enhance overtime, allowances or pensions.”

“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. Unite’s strike action remains scheduled for next week unless COSLA gets back to us with a credible offer which addresses our primary concerns.”

Cosla has not confirmed the terms of the deal.

As a result of the rejection, planned strike action across the country in education and cleansing next week will go ahead unless a deal can be reached ahead of time.

The Scottish Government has said insufficient funding from the UK Government has led to struggles over the pay offers.

Talks between local government body Cosla, trade unions and the Scottish Government took place on Thursday.

Will the streets need to be decontaminated?

Bosses at Public Health Scotland have told local authorities the “decontamination of public areas where bins have overflowed may be required”.

Public Health Scotland has said: “Organic waste includes food waste, animal waste (from food or excrement), human waste (including nappies) and manure.”

The health body said the impact of waste on health is “varied” and “may depend on numerous factors, including the nature of the waste and weather conditions that may accelerate decomposition of waste”.

It said: “There are some simple precautions which people can take in order to reduce the possible health impacts of waste.

“When handling waste at home, people should always wash hands thoroughly. Where possible, organic waste and medical waste should be stored in containers.

“If containers are not available, waste which is likely to rot or decompose should be double bagged.”

It said people should avoid contact with rubbish in public areas.

And it warned: “The accumulation of waste may increase fire risk so households may wish to consider their fire safety preparedness.”

Refuse workers in Fife are set to walk out in early September, joining union members from other councils, like those in Falkirk, who are currently out on strike. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

What has Cosla said?

Cosla resources spokesperson, councillor Katie Hagmann, said: “We fully understand that our trade union colleagues want the best possible deal for their members, especially given the concerns many within our workforce have around the cost of living crisis we are currently facing.

“That is why we as employers have done everything possible to put the best offer we can to them in the context of the extremely challenging financial circumstances Scotland’s councils have been and are continuing to face.”

Will other council workers strike?

As well as the action by waste workers, the strike is set to spread with school and nursery staff set to go on strike next month.

Unions Unison and the GMB have said their members will walk out between September 6 and 8, a move that will see schools, early years centres and nurseries disrupted in Aberdeenshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, Orkney, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Stirling.

The unions represent workers such as school catering staff, cleaners, caretakers, teaching assistants and early years practitioners.

Glasgow City Council said on Thursday its nurseries, primaries and additional support for learning (ASL) schools will be closed from September 6 to 8 due to industrial action.

Speaking about the protest, taking place after the unions rejected a revised 5% pay offer funded in part with £140 million of Scottish Government cash, Ms Dunsmore said: “Our first wave was in Edinburgh, the second wave is waste across Scotland, our third wave is going to be schools.

“And it may not stop at schools, we’re in here for the long haul.”

Johanna Baxter, head of local government at Unison Scotland, said: “Until we have a decent pay offer that we can put to Unison members, our strike action will continue and thousands of school and early years workers will be talking action across nine councils in Scotland.”

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, said: “It is ridiculous that we are six months down the line since staff rejected the initial 2% and unions are still trying to get an offer on the table that could help mitigate working poverty for tens of thousands of key workers in local government.”

Overflowing bins in Aberdeen city centre as the strike action continues.

What are the strike dates? 

Edinburgh’s bin strike began on 18 August and is set to end on 30 August.

Councils elsewhere in Scotland are due to strike later this month and into September.

Unite waste services members

24 to 31 August:

  • Aberdeen
  • Angus
  • Dundee
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Lothian
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Falkirk
  • Glasgow
  • Highland
  • Inverclyde
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • West Lothian

6 to13 September:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Aberdeen City
  • Angus
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dundee
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Lothian
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Edinburgh
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Glasgow
  • Highland
  • Inverclyde
  • North Ayrshire
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • West Lothian.

Unite schools and early years

6 to 8 September:

  • East Renfrewshire
  • Glasgow
  • Inverclyde
  • North Lanarkshire
  • South Lanarkshire

7 to 9 September:

  • Angus Council
  • Dundee City
  • Tayside Contracts

Unison workers

26 to 29 August and 7 to 10 September:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Clackmannanshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Glasgow
  • Inverclyde
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Stirling
  • South Lanarkshire

GMB members

26 to 29 August and 7 to 10 September:

  • Aberdeen
  • Angus
  • Dundee
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Lothian
  • Falkirk
  • Glasgow
  • Inverclyde
  • Highland
  • Midlothian
  • Orkney
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • West Lothian
  • Perth and Kinross
  • North Lanarkshire

Cleansing staff are battling for a better pay deal as rubbish mounts up on Edinburgh’s streets. (Credit: SWNS)

How much are waste workers paid? 

According to checksalary.co.uk, the average salary for bin workers in Edinburgh is £21,178.

Compared to Edinburgh specifically, the average salary for cleansing workers across Scotland is £20,236.

Workers are hoping to negotiate with councils across Scotland to secure a pay rise in line with inflation as the cost of living and inflation rates continue to skyrocket.