Nicola Sturgeon personally intervenes in talks aimed at ending council strikes

Nicola Sturgeon has held talks with trade union leaders and local authority bosses in a bid to end crippling council strikes across Scotland.

The First Minister met the two sides at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh on Thursday in a move that marked her first direct involvement in the ongoing dispute.

Critics said she should have intervened earlier to sort out the “mess”.

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Waste workers in authorities across Scotland have been returning to work as the first wave of strike action ends.

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire
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Glasgow City Council warned residents to expect a “significant delay to all collections” due to the “extensive backlog”.

Staff from the Unite, Unison and GMB unions walked out as part of a dispute over pay.

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Action coincided with a strike in Edinburgh that left the streets littered with rubbish during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

But the disruption is likely to return next week – and spread to schools – if a new offer is not accepted by the unions.

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The latest offer, made by local authority body Cosla on Monday, was rejected as unions urged Cosla to make a flat-rate pay offer as opposed to one based on a percentage increase to current wages.

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According to the Scottish Government, the deal included a payment of at least £1,925 for council staff, with those earning £20,000 receiving £2,000.

But Unite said the payment could be as low as £989 for some employees, with 85 per cent receiving between £1,925 and £2,000, and any payment would not be recurring.

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Ms Sturgeon previously said all options in making more funding available amid the strikes had been “exhausted”.

She tweeted: “If we could go further we would, but @scotgov budget is finite.”

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Waste workers are set to be joined by school support staff, including cleaners, caterers, janitors and pupil support assistants, in strike action next week.

Hundreds of schools will close as a result of the action across the country for three days.

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Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser questioned why it had taken Ms Sturgeon “two weeks to get involved in this particular dispute”.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “She’s been swanning around, going off to Denmark, appearing on the Fringe, I think, on no fewer than five different occasions, but not had time to get involved in trying to sort out this mess that is affecting people right across Scotland.”

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He added: “Let’s remember, we just had the Edinburgh Festival. This is Scotland’s showcase to the world.

"And the sight that has greeted visitors from all over the world has been piles of stinking rubbish and, we're told, increasing numbers of rats on the streets.”

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Ms Sturgeon met with Cosla in the early afternoon on Thursday before sitting down with trade union leaders and then meeting council bosses again in the evening.

The talks lasted all day, but were described as positive, with food ordered in the evening as discussions continued.

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Earlier, Wendy Dunsmore of Unite warned that without a deal, the unions would seek to step up industrial action.

She told the BBC: “The industrial action next week is three days in schools and early years, and in waste is eight days.

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“What happens after that is the unions will regroup and will look to escalate this further, so that could have further impacts on services across Scotland.”

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