By Sophie Squire
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Glasgow strikers fight over pay—and climate change

The council tried to persuade other workers to take on strikers' jobs. But they wouldn't cross picket lines.
Dozens of striking cleansing workers on strike and a big banner saying "Solidarity with the strike". Another smaller banner has school climate strikes slogan.

Solidarity has flooded in for the strikers (Pic: Hector Sierra)

A strike by Glasgow city council (GCC) cleansing workers continued all last week despite bosses attempting to send in scabs.

The Scottish National Party-led council tried to persuade workers who maintain the city’s parks and neighbourhoods to take on the cleansing workers’ jobs. But workers refused to cross picket lines.

Strikers are demanding an improved pay offer from Cosla, the umbrella organisation of Scottish councils.

At the recycling centre in Polmadie, pickets were holding firm on the fifth day of strikes last week. John O’Connor, the GMB branch secretary, told Socialist Worker, “We want GCC to look at other local authorities and pay us in line with them.”

He said GCC is one of the largest councils in Scotland but pays its workers some of the lowest wages. “This is ultimately a pay dispute, but we have a list of demands to improve our jobs,” John added. “The council has spent millions hiring agency staff who have no protection and get no sick or holiday pay. We want permanent contracts for them.

“We want our depots to be modernised, they’re falling apart, and we’re using equipment that is over six years old.

Striker Steven agreed that the council must make urgent changes to improve safety..

“Our vans are over 14 years old, and they’re supposed to be changed every four years. They break down constantly. In one day I had to change vans three times,” he told Socialist Worker

Paul, who works at the depot in Blochairn, said that his depot is constantly filthy. “Birds are roosting in the roof above where we work. We know their droppings are toxic.”

Steven added that at his depot in Polmadie, the only place to eat lunch is right next to a rubbish dump. “There are flies and rats everywhere,” he said.

Soaring

Steven and Paul say a pay rise is desperately needed as prices of so many goods are soaring.

“The price of petrol is rising, gas is costing more, and rent is going up. We are striking for this pay rise simply to be able to keep going,” said Paul.

Striking at the same time as Cop26 has brought increased media attention and solidarity to the strikes.

The GMB mobilised a good number of activists to join the climate strike demonstrations on Friday.

Paul said the money spent on Cop26 would be better invested in useful ways.

“The conference and the massive police presence that comes with it is a complete waste of time and money,” he said.

Both agreed that fighting against the climate crisis is essential.

“Climate change will affect my children and their children. Something has got to be done and, like always, it will be the poor that will take the brunt of it,” said Paul.

Sections of council workers, who are members of the Unison union, planned to strike with GMB members from 8 November across Scotland. But strikes were called off when union leaders accepted a new pay deal.

Unison’s national committee recommended workers vote for the new pay offer. But at least one local branch of the union has come out against the offer.

The East Dunbartonshire branch of the union reported that its executive committee unanimously voted against the deal and said members deserved more.

To win better pay and better conditions for some of the lowest-paid council workers, more unions must join the strikes to win an improved deal for all.

And while the protests at Cop26 rage, workers should be inspired to not only demand a pay rise and a better working environment but greener jobs as well.

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