Edinburgh council bin workers have hit out at the biased reporting of their situation in the mass media and explained what is really at stake in the dispute which has seen rubbish piling up in Scotland’s capital.
“We are not demanding more wages, we are demanding that our wages should not be cut. I am set to lose £300 per month if the Council’s proposals go through. People have got mortgages, people are going to lose their homes over this if it’s not stopped.”
The Council says it is implementing legally required equal pay measures between men and women workers, but instead of raising women workers’ wages, they are trying to save money by cutting wages for many groups of workers. To oppose this attack on their wages and conditions, the bin workers are working to rule and banning overtime.
The bin workers stressed it is not only bin workers affected: “Street cleaners are directly involved too. In fact road workers, gardeners, gravediggers, all Council manual workers are affected.”
The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 25th August that the current industrial action could spread to many more workers, as the main Council Union, UNISON, was set to reject the Council’s planned wage cuts affecting their members.
AN ATTACK ON THE WORKING CLASS
One bin worker said:
“The Council have printed 90 day redundancy notices, which they are threatening to issue if we take strike action. The Council are ripping up agreements with their workforce.
Workers have been suspended for speaking out in the media about the dispute. 16 bucket men been suspended….”
“This is an attack on the right to withdraw labour, it’s an attack on freedom of speech, it’s an attack on the working class. The whole trade union movement should go out on strike about this.”
BIN THE SCABS
The City of Edinburgh Council have brought in scab labour, but are refusing to say how much this is costing.
“The scabs who have been brought in are working out of the Seafield Depot on Fillyside Road which was shut down by the Health and Safety Executive some months ago because of asbestos contamination. We informed the Health and Safety Executive, but they are still working there.
“About 30 or 40 scabs have been brought in from Liverpool. They are staying at the Hilton Hotel at the airport, costing £102 per night.”
”The scab lorries are the ones with WCR on them, they are red coloured, they are working in the city centre, on the Royal Mile, up the Bridges. We believe Blue Arrow is one of the companies involved in recruiting the scabs.”
Not only is the Council trying to cut the bin workers wages, it is worsening conditions: “At present we work from 6.30am, during the day, four days on and four days off. The Council are trying to force us to work shifts, 6am till 2pm and 2pm till 10pm, plus working the majority of weekends. This will mean working late at night in the middle of winter, including going into some schemes where it might not be safe to work at night. The Council are demanding that we do more work, and different kinds of work, all for less wages.”
“It is not true that the councils latest offer was recommended by the union. Council leader Jenny Dawe was not telling the truth about that. The Council say our pay would be protected for three years – but what this actually means is that our pay would be frozen for three years.”
ONE OUT, ALL OUT
One worker was very critical of the Unite Union hierarchy.
“The union has allowed things to fragment. First they picked on binmen in Falkirk. At our branch we were itching to support them, but the Union said we couldn’t do anything as it wasnt anything to do with us. Now they have come for us. There have been disputes in Glasgow and Dundee too.”
“The Unions are moribund by the anti Union legislation, they are hiding behind the legislation, they are almost impotent. It should be one out, all out.”
A spokesperson for The Industrial Workers of the World Edinburgh General Membership Branch said:
“We support the bin worker’s fight against wage cuts and the imposition of unfair terms and conditions. This struggle will be the first of many, as the City council tries to cut, close or privatise our essential public services. So this struggle needs to be won.
“We urge all who realise the importance of this battle to contact us and get involved in solidarity activity with the bin workers’ struggle.”
The quotes are from two bin workers employed by City of Edinburgh Council, to avoid victimisation they asked us to withhold their names.