Glasgow bin strikes back on after union u-turn because council refused to give workers two days off

, Glasgow bin strikes back on after union u-turn because council refused to give workers two days off, The Evepost BBC News
, Glasgow bin strikes back on after union u-turn because council refused to give workers two days off, The Evepost BBC News

Bin strikes that threatened to turn Glasgow into an international laughing stock during the Cop26 summit are back on again following an 11th hour about-turn by union chiefs.

GMB Scotland said Glasgow City Council had failed to give members “proper time and space” to consider a pay offer made on Friday. Union leaders had previously promised they would suspend the strike action pending a two-week consultation with members.

But, in a statement published on social media, the GMB accused the council of acting in “bad faith” and warned that week-long strike action for street cleaning and refuse staff would start from midnight last night if last-ditch talks were unsuccessful.

GMB Scotland secretary Louise Gilmour said: “We met the council in good faith, offering a clear set of proposals to reset industrial relations and avoid strikes. The council rejected these proposals.”

She added: “Regrettably, the council refused this massive opportunity to move forward, and strike action across the cleansing service will now begin, during which time our members will be balloted on the Cosla pay offer.”

This coincides with the first week of the Cop26 summit, starting with the first full day on Monday of it being attended by world leaders, including US President Joe Biden.

Widespread concerns have been expressed about the state of Glasgow’s streets during the Cop summit and particularly overflowing bins, fly tipping and a rat infestation.

Susan Aitken, the council’s SNP leader, last week blamed the legacy of the Thatcher government for the state of the streets and argued that “all cities have rats.”

However, both the council and the SNP-Green coalition government at Holyrood were under intense pressure to get a deal to prevent the city being embarrassed on the world stage.

On Friday the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) proposed a pay rise of 5.9 per cent for the lowest paid staff as part of a £1,062 increase for all staff earning below £25,000.

SNP ministers agreed to stump up £30 million of the cost, with the remaining £18.5m coming from local government.

The city council last night accused the union of acting “unlawfully” by walking out as the agreement covered cleansing and refuse workers Scotland-wide.

, Glasgow bin strikes back on after union u-turn because council refused to give workers two days off, The Evepost BBC News

A council spokesman said GMB Scotland had initially demanded their members have Monday and Tuesday off to discuss the offer, despite Cop26 having started in the city.

When this was rejected, the council said refuse workers could take time within their working days to discuss the offer as long as they completed their duties.

But Louise Gilmour, the GMB Scotland secretary, said: “The council has failed to give our members the proper time and space to consider the 11th hour offer from Cosla, and the fact the council moved to block strike action in the Court of Session using anti-trade union legislation, means there is too much bad faith among members towards the employer.”

Confirming that strike action would start on Monday, she said last night: “We are calling for an urgent meeting with the council as soon as possible and we will work until one-minute to midnight tonight to try and fix this.”  

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The agreement struck at national level gave two weeks to consider the pay offer and so there is no reason for this strike to go ahead at this time. It is very disappointing the GMB has opted for this course of action.

“We have already agreed their request for time to meet with their members. And, while we remain available to meet with them at any time, we are unable to deliver their request for a pay increase.

“That is part of a national negotiation and a new deal was tabled by Cosla last week. It appeared that GMB, along with the other unions, had agreed to suspend the strike until national consultation was complete and it is very disappointing they have reneged on that agreement and have not given us the required 14 days’ notice after they publicly announced the suspension on Friday.”

Mr Matheson said: “It is disappointing, although the Scottish Government was not party to what is a national negotiation between local authorities and Cosla.”

He added: “I understand that discussions were taking place last night and the Scottish Government would certainly want to continue to encourage both Cosla, Glasgow City Council and the GMB to continue to discuss this issue to try and find a quick resolution to what I believe is a process issue rather than issue around the deal that was proposed.”

But Miles Briggs, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Local Government Secretary, said: “The SNP Government must intervene now to resolve this dispute once and for all.

“As well as the public health implications of overflowing bins and rats, the sight of rubbish piling up on Glasgow’s streets is deeply damaging to Glasgow’s image as the eyes of the world fall on the city.

“It’s frankly embarrassing for Glasgow residents that, with delegates having arrived and COP26 underway, this dispute has still not been resolved by the SNP-run council or Scottish Government.”