More than 1,000 bin workers to strike across 15 Scottish councils

More than 1,000 waste and street cleaning workers across Scotland are set to walk out amid an escalating dispute over pay.

The trade union Unite said a “second wave” of strikes by cleansing workers will kick off later this month.

Some 300 staff at Edinburgh City Council have already said they plan to walk out between August 18 and 30, coinciding with the busy festival period.

Unite said about 1,500 members across waste services in 15 councils will now strike from August 24 to 31.

Unions previously warned rubbish could be left piling up in the streets

The councils involved in the second phase are Glasgow, Aberdeen City, Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Highland, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

The announcement follows a “pitiful” 2 per cent pay offer from local authority body Cosla, and is part of a co-ordinated campaign by the Unite, Unison and GMB trade unions to persuade the Scottish Government and Cosla to make an improved offer.

The latest wave will add to an already fraught labour landscape, with rail strikes taking place this summer and the threat of teachers also walking out.

Unions have warned all Royal Mail deliveries and collections will be “shut down” across Scotland during four days of strike action later this month and in September.

It comes amid mounting concern over the cost-of-living crisis.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis has warned soaring energy bills are turning into a “national crisis” on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and will put lives at risk.

The founder of MoneySavingExpert called on the two Conservative leadership candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, to set out how they will tackle the energy crisis as households face a “cataclysmic” rise in energy bills.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has claimed he will challenge energy bosses to do more to help their customers cope with soaring prices at a crunch meeting on Thursday.

He acknowledged more needs to be done to help people with the spike in the cost of living ahead of winter, but suggested that rolling blackouts were unlikely.

Mr Zahawi and business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng will ask gas and electricity utilities company executives to submit a breakdown of expected profits and pay-outs, as well as investment plans for the next three years.

Analysts at Cornwall Insight have predicted bills are set to soar to around £3,582 in October, from £1,971 previously, before rising even further in the new year.

Leaked Government documents have warned a “reasonable worst-case scenario” could see outages for homes and businesses in January if there is a combination of below-average temperatures and a drop in gas imports, according to reports.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the UK Government was working up a fresh package of support for the next prime minister to consider when they take office.

He argued it was “absolutely right” for the new leader to consider “these options in the round” when they take the reins, suggesting they should steer clear of announcing “new un-costed policies” during the election period.

Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs warned a further wave of strike action by council workers in waste services “would be immensely disruptive, and create unnecessary additional difficulties at a time people are already contending with a host of challenges”.

He added: “We urge them to reconsider. But the root fault doesn’t lie with them, nor even with the councils’ pay offer.

"Even before their most recent savage cuts, the SNP Government has been starving local authorities of funding for basic services for years.

“The recent public money announced by John Swinney – with no indication of when, where or how it will be spent – will hardly wipe out that neglect, but the SNP should act now to prevent an escalation of industrial action, and destruction of basic services.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: "Overflowing rubbish bins is a pretty good metaphor for this SNP/Green government's running of Scotland.

"It is ministers who are responsible for these strikes because they have hollowed out local government for a decade and offered such a miserly settlement to local authorities that there is no prospect of a proper pay rise."

Cosla previously said it could not make an improved offer without extra funding from the Scottish Government.

Last week, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said councils would be given an extra £140 million to fund a bigger pay deal.

Unite regional officer Wendy Dunsmore said local authority staff have “had enough of substandard settlements and deserve a decent wage” to counter the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.

“The failure of both Cosla and the Scottish Government to work to bring an improved offer to the table that could have halted this action means any blame for where we are now should be directed back to them,” she said.

“Unite will not tolerate that local government workers are the consistent poor relations and members have now had enough.

“We are calling once again on Cosla to make a fair and decent offer to workers now in order to avoid the forthcoming wave of strikes.”

The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said staff were upset by the “procrastination between Cosla and the Scottish Government” and pledged the organisation’s support for striking staff.

Mr Swinney said: “Following constructive discussions with Cosla leaders, and notwithstanding the financial impact on our fully committed budget, the Scottish Government is contributing a further £140m of recurring funding to support Cosla to make a revised pay offer to the local government workforce.

“Without the ability to borrow or change tax policy, this will have a significant and ongoing impact upon our fixed budget that ministers are taking steps to address.

“Finding a solution must be a collaborative endeavour and local authorities now need to do the same.

“This additional funding demonstrates our commitment to local government and their staff and will allow local authorities to make a significantly enhanced pay offer.”

A spokesman for Cosla said: “We held constructive discussions with Scottish Government last week.

“Leaders met virtually on Friday and at this meeting agreed that they needed further information.

“Given the importance of a pay award for our workforce, council leaders wanted to seek further clarification from both the Scottish Government and the UK Government and will reconvene this week to further consider this matter.”

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