The mountains of rubbish that have greeted festival-goers and made Edinburgh residents’ lives misery are set to become a familiar sight across Scotland as waste workers at more councils walk out.
From Wednesday, staff at 13 local authorities, including Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen, will join those in the capital and strike as unions ratchet up the pressure in their pay dispute.
Trade unions were offered a 5% pay rise by Cosla, the body representing local government, but despite “productive” talks a deal was not reached.
Wendy Dunsmore, Unite’s industrial officer, said the “dispute will continue to escalate to a point where it could now go beyond the winter, causing months of massive nationwide disruption”.
“It’s a sad indictment that council workers in Scotland are being offered substantially less than their counterparts in England,” she said.
“The cold hard reality is that inflation and energy costs are soaring – and they are predicted to rise even higher.”
Ms Dunsmore put the blame “at the doors of Cosla and the Scottish Government”, but on Tuesday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Holyrood did not have a “bottomless pit of money” and insisted she wanted to “see the fairest possible pay deal delivered to public sector workers in very difficult times”.
Ms Sturgeon said the “Scottish Government has a finite budget” and has already given councils £140 million “to help fund a fair pay deal”.
In the Scottish capital, which has seen its streets strewn with litter and bins overflowing, council leader Cammy Day said he was “disappointed” a deal was not reached.
“This is a national crisis playing out in Edinburgh’s streets during our busiest and most important time of the year,” he said.
“And while this clearly shows the value of our waste teams’ work, it also demonstrates a national failure to find an acceptable resolution.”
Edinburgh’s waste workers in Unite are set to strike until August 30, while in the further 13 council areas industrial action will continue until August 31.
Unison and GMB will see their members walk out between August 26 to 29 and September 7 to 10.
Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, called for an “urgent intervention” from Deputy First Minister John Swinney to help reach an agreement.
Meanwhile, Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland’s senior organiser, said Cosla would have to do “so much better” when they meet again on Friday, and warned that if concerns were not addressed, “strikes will continue, and they will grow”.
“Our members are angry about the lack of value being shown to them by political leaders and scared about the prospect of pay that doesn’t confront a cost-of-living crisis that’s getting worse by the week,” he said.
Under the current deal tabled, the lowest paid council staff would see their salaries rise to £10.50 an hour.
Unite said that, for more than half of council workers, Cosla’s offer represented a rise of between £900 to £1,250. But in England, the union said, council workers have been offered a £1,925 flat rate pay offer.