Glasgow cleansing workers right to remind us of another environmental crisis – Brian Wilson

“We’ve got a civic pride and a civic duty to look after this city. We want to showcase to the world how beautiful it is.”

Glasgow's refuse workers are set to go on strike during the COP26 climate change summit (Picture: Martin Keene/PA)
Glasgow's refuse workers are set to go on strike during the COP26 climate change summit (Picture: Martin Keene/PA)

Timely words on radio yesterday from the GMB union convener for the cleansing department of Glasgow City Council, Chris Mitchell. If only the city had political leadership with such passion and commitment!

Instead, it has an SNP-run council which acquiesces in swingeing cuts imposed by their political allies and now the rats are coming home to roost with a threatened strike by cleansing workers.

As Mr Mitchell pointed out, they too are in favour of a sustainable, greener future – while acutely aware that Glasgow City Council “have an environmental emergency on their doorstep” created by years of “mass cuts within the cleansing budget”.

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Mr Mitchell explained the long-running nature of the dispute which is not, as the Scottsh government claimed, solely between Cosla – a useful shield – and the unions. There are also Glasgow-specific factors.

Neither is it something cooked up for COP26 – though the workers could hardly be blamed for using a bit of leverage to press their case. It sounded as if a £500 pandemic bonus consolidated into the wage agreement might do the trick. Pay up, I say.

“There are places in the UK which ring-fence their cleansing budget,” said Mr Mitchell, “because they take pride in their cities.” That’s an idea worth considering for any authority that values its own environment.

Cleansing is a Cinderella service but it is one on which society is hugely reliant. The Glasgow cleansing workers have done us all a favour by getting that message across.

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