By Sophie Squire
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Scottish bin workers refuse 5 percent deal

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They're taking on Cosla, the council employers’ body
Issue 2820
Scottish bin workers in GMB union on the picket line with orange and black flag

Spirits are high on the picket lines among refuse workers employed by Cosla, the council employers’ body (Picture: GMB Scotland)

Thousands of bin ­workers in Scotland took part in pay strikes last week that have left rubbish piled high on the streets. The workers, who are mainly members of the GMB and Unison unions, have been striking from Friday of last week until Monday of this week.

Now Cosla, the council employers’ body, has now tabled a new offer. But it falls far short of what’s needed. It offers a 5 percent rise but with a one-off to those currently earning less than £20,500.

There are vague promises of a similar one-off payment next year, and boss say they will “attempt” to consolidate these payments in the future. Unison’s Scottish Local ­Government committee rightly threw the offer out and said they would not suspend planned strikes. And, while the Scottish government is determined to play hardball over pay, the effects of the rubbish strike are mounting up.

Chris Mitchell, GMB Glasgow cleansing ­convenor, said on picket lines in Dawsholm, Glasgow, “There’s a common theme across the country now, the rubbish is piling up. And it just goes to show you the role these individuals play in keeping this city clean and safe.

“But Cosla, stop ­messing about because it’s quite simple. Get your hand in your pocket and get your hand down the back of the couch because there’s always money there.

“It’s how you choose to spend your money. And you need to start spending it on refuse workers who are heroes. And if you don’t we will continue to strike.”

Local activist John Lucey visited the picket lines in Edinburgh and told Socialist Worker they were big and angry, and that workers were tired of poor pay and outsourcing. “The full time workers at the Edinburgh depots are primarily older, and agency workers are younger.

“The younger workers are often made to do the more dangerous work but don’t receive the same benefits as those directly employed by the council. So along with pay, ­workers are angry about this. But they are also aware that agency workers can be used to break the strike.”

John also highlighted that workers who are striking in different disputes must come together. “There is a recycling depot, a BT centre, a large Royal Mail sorting office and a Parcelforce centre in close proximity here in Edinburgh. This means that within about a mile, four disputes are potentially going on.”

“The next wave of strikes for refuse workers are set to begin on 8 September. This will coincide with Royal Mail workers’ strikes and the Scottish TUC’s demonstration. We need to make the argument for unity between disputes.”

Workers in Unison across Scotland are set to strike from 7 till 10 September in Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Stirling and South Lanarkshire. And in the GMB union from 7 till 10 September in Angus, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Highland, Midlothian, Orkney, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, Perth and Kinross, and North Lanarkshire.

And, on 6, 7, and 8 September, workers in early years services and in schools who are in the GMB union will also strike in Glasgow City and East Renfrewshire councils.

One will not settle for 6 percent

Outsourced refuse workers in Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, will strike from Wednesday after receiving a measly pay offer. The members of the GMB union, rejected an offer of 6 percent from Serco.

The “pay rise” would leave workers on much lower pay than refuse workers in the neighbouring areas. Workers outsourced to Biffa and Veolia are paid closer to £12 an hour, whereas Maidenhead and Windsor workers will make just over £10 an hour, even after the pay offer.

This has angered workers, especially as Maidenhead and Windsor are some of the most expensive places in Britain to live.

Bexley strike off after new deal

Strikes at Bexley council in south London have been called off after the union reached a deal over pay and conditions. Contractor Countrystyle Recycling had originally offered a pay rise of just 2 percent.

But after striking last month, workers have voted to accept a deal that protects their terms and conditions and substantially improves the original pay offer.

The 100 Unite union members accepted an 8 percent pay rise backdated to April and a £450 one-off payment. The deal also protects a long-standing job and finish clause in workers’ contracts that the firm wanted scrapped.

More strikes are coming at Disclosure and Barring

Workers at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) in Liverpool are set to strike for six more days. PCS union members employed by HGS to run the contact centre and back-office functions of the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service plan to be out on strike from 5 to 10 September.

They were previously on strike from 15-20 August. Only two of the 96 workers are not union members. The company is owned by the richest person in the country, Srichand Parmanand Hinduja, who has a personal wealth of more than £24.5 billion. The company has refused to improve its original 3.25 percent pay offer.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “Our members are rightly angry at being told to accept a below‑inflation offer while the Hinduja family live in luxury in one of the most expensive houses in the country, just round the corner for Buckingham Palace.”

Scottish teachers’ ballot over another measly pay offer

The EIS Scottish teachers’ union is to launch a consultative ballot for strikes over pay. The EIS Salaries Committee met last week and is recommending that members vote to reject the current 5 percent offer. The ballot will ask school workers if they will back strikes to win more.

EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said, “We have now received three different offers from local authority employers, and each one has been wholly unsatisfactory. First, we were offered a paltry 2 percent and this was rejected out-of-hand.

“Then, several months of pay decline later, Cosla came back with an insulting 3.5 percent offer, which, with rocketing rates of inflation was miles away from being acceptable. Now, teachers’ employers are proposing a 5 percent offer that is still well below the RPI inflation rate.

“In real terms, this is no offer at all. Rather, it is amounts to an over 7 percent pay cut for Scotland’s teachers and that is something that we will never accept.”

Strikes will force the exam bosses to answer questions

Workers at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) members are set for strikes. In a ballot 87 percent supported strikes action on a 79 percent turnout.

The Unite union has called action on 8, 15 and 16 September. SQA workers are fighting for much better than a pay offer worth between 1.7 to 4 per cent depending on job grading.

The SQA will confirm the results of priority appeals to UCAS on 6 September. The strikes will now disrupt the standard appeals stage of the process with Unite estimating that up to 22,000 standard appeals will be “severely delayed”.

It’s right to speak out, says union

Leeds UCU union has spoken out against the conviction and jailing of Leeds University PhD student Salma al-Shehab in Saudi Arabia.

Its statement says, “We are appalled that she has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for peacefully expressing her views on Twitter, including advocating for women’s rights and supporting human rights defenders also unjustly persecuted and jailed by Saudi Arabia. Salma’s case is sadly not an isolated example, but part of a pattern of massive repression and criminalisation of dissent.”

The union condemns the British government for prioritising “friendly diplomatic relations and the provision of arms and military technology” rather than acting on the abuse of human rights.

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