Union rejects bin men pay deal

THE Capital's bin dispute was set to escalate today as union leaders gave the council seven days' notice of official industrial action.

The move – which will stop short of all-out strike action and is likely to include an official work to rule and overtime ban – follows the refusal of staff to accept the city council's offer.

Union officials had recommended approving the deal, but it was rejected by members after several days of crisis talks.

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Rubbish has been mounting up on the city streets for the past five weeks, since refuse collectors began taking unofficial action. The city council was forced to bring in private contractors to empty some of the bins and clear the litter.

Staff are objecting to the city council's pay modernisation proposals, which they claim could see some bin men losing up to 3,000 a year. Bin men would take on extra duties as "neighbourhood environment workers".

Stephen MacGregor, convener with the Unite union at the city council, said he was "disappointed" at reports the union had agreed to the council's most recent proposals.

He said: "We will be giving the council a week's notice of our intention to take industrial action short of a strike. The membership tells us what their view is, and that's what has decided the form of action we are going to take. Potentially, things could move to a full strike at a later date.

"The council proposals have being rejected by the workforce, and I would suggest the obvious thing is to get round the table again and try to progress."

He said further details of what form the industrial action would take would be revealed later in the week, adding it would almost certainly include an overtime ban.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said the authority had made a reasonable offer to the unions, and could not give in to their demands. He said the council had contingency plans in place to ensure waste is collected.

He said: "We will have to wait and see what they decide to do. The door is always open to talk to us. We cannot give in to their demands, even if they have chosen this particular time of year to exert an extra pressure on us.

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"There is a reasonable proposal on the table and the trade union has recognised this.

"The system of paying men bonuses is altogether outmoded and can't continue. If we gave in to them, it would mean making thousands of people redundant and millions of pounds worth of cuts in services."

Contractors will continue working next week to help get the city's rubbish collections back up to speed.

Communal on-street bins are currently between one and two days behind schedule, while trade waste is expected to be back to normal within days.

There is still a "limited service" for garden waste as domestic collections have been prioritised.

• Inspectors have given the Capital's streets good marks for their cleanliness as part of a study carried out before the current bin dispute.

Independent inspectors from Keep Scotland Beautiful awarded Edinburgh an average score of 70 under the Cleanliness Index Monitoring System (CIMS).

The council said the score showed the Capital's streets were getting cleaner, but there remained evidence some areas of the city continue to lag behind.

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Inspectors carry out four surveys each year, providing an assessment described as a "snapshot" of the litter levels over a four-week period. The inspectors examine a 50-metre section on ten per cent of the city's streets and grade them.

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