Edinburgh’s refuse workers are currently in dispute with City of Edinburgh Council over “modernisation” plans that would see them lose £300 a month in wages. They are conducting a work-to-rule, which means no overtime. There have been reports of bully-boy tactics by the council, including the suspension of workers who have spoken out.
Council tax payers will be footing the bill for an estimated £40,000-£50,000 spent to date on importing untrained “bin men”, recruited and managed by private companies. The council has refused to publish the true costs on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. But it is known that the figure doesn’t include the additional cost of putting up the imported workers at the £102-a-night Edinburgh Hilton.
The local media have failed to report the facts of the dispute. For example, the Evening News printed the headline “One in three bin men off sick as stress of strike gets blamed” (5 September), failing to explain that the refuse workers aren’t actually on strike. In response, council workers and their supporters have produced a bulletin for circulation in the city, to inform the people of Edinburgh about what is actually going on.
Similar disputes by refuse workers over pay cuts have been taking place around the country, including Liverpool and Leeds, where there have been all-out strikes in the last few weeks. With the forthcoming election being fought over “how to” rather than “whether to” make cuts in public spending, solidarity with council workers and the defence of the services they provide will be a key issue in the next year.