West Lothian bin staff vote to strike

There are warnings of rubbish piled in the street across West Lothian this week as bin men voted to strike.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 4:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 4:22 pm

Staff in two unions voted to strike, rejecting a “derisory” two per cent pay increase.

And local GMB members in waste and recycling depots voted to support strikes. Their ballot resulted in 95 per cent support for strikes on a 55 per cent turnout.

A spokesman for the union said meetings will take place with sister unions in COSLA over coming days

He added: “Unless a significantly improved pay offer is tabled for our members’ consultation, then bin collections and street cleaning will be affected by action in WLC as early as the middle of next month.”

Unite confirmed that 26 councils across Scotland are set to be hit by industrial action.

Unite will be finalising the strike dates in the coming week with action in refuse and waste services expected to begin in mid-August. Action specifically impacting schools is expected to begin in early September.

Unite has repeatedly warned both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) that the current two per cent offer is unacceptable amid the deepening cost of living crisis with inflation soaring to 11.8 per cent.

Unite will be finalising the strike dates in the coming week with action in refuse and waste services expected to begin in mid-August.

Unite welcomed movement by COSLA in calling for a higher pay offer of five per cent if the Scottish Government allocates extra cash to fund an improved pay offer. However, the trade union is demanding that council leaders fight harder for a fairer share for local government workers.

For the GMB, Keir Greenaway, Scotland Senior Organiser, said: “Unless Ministers and COSLA make a significantly improved pay offer for the consultation of our members then strike action is happening across these vital services.

“The two per cent that’s already been massively rejected is a shameful proposal, it’s worth less than a tenner a week extra for those earning £25,000 or under, and it will turn a cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophe for many workers and their families.

“Two years ago, these workers were applauded on the doorstep by political leaders, but now they are being told to suffer massive real terms pay cuts ahead of a brutal winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and energy bills over £3,000.

“Our members are angry and scared, and the prospect of tens of thousands of council workers falling into the growing ranks of the working poor is not something GMB is prepared to leave unchallenged.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The message for both the Scottish Government and COSLA is crystal clear: thousands upon thousands of members won’t tolerate real terms pay cuts anymore, and they have had enough. Our members are being forced to take this action due to a derisory pay offer, and we will support them in this fight for better jobs, pay and conditions in local government.”

A spokesperson for West Lothian Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are aware of the potential for industrial action and will await the outcome before commenting further. If strike action does go ahead, we will try to ensure customers are provided with information in advance of any service disruption.”

More than half of Scotland’s 250,000 council workers are believed to be earning less than £25,000 a year for a 37-hour week. Unite previously warned all new council leaders if they do not act to improve pay, they will see strikes this summer.

Local government emerged as the biggest loser from the latest Scottish Government spending review with its funding frozen for the rest of the current parliament’s term.