This report from Tam Burke on the struggle of the Edingburgh cleansing workers was sent to us last week
An Edinburgh Council Refuse worker told me that they are in the front line of attempts by the Liberal
– Scottish Nationalist run City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to cut pay and
jobs of council staff
under the guise of an equal pay scheme. Six weeks ago refuse collection workers
stopped the “job
and finish” arrangement
whereby they hurried round emptying the buckets as fast as they could. Contrary to the safe practise of going
down one side of the road then up the other to empty the buckets, it’s
been usual to do both sides at the same time. Workers scurry across with a bin
or two, judging the right time to doge the buses and cars on the busy roads. It
can mean an early finish so they can knock off, having done all
the work they are paid to do. Now lines
of brown and green wheelie bins in almost
every street plus the overflowing communal bins show that
dangerous method is all stopped. The workers are using all the time to carefully do the job, mindful of their health and safety, but demonstrating to the
Council and the public how much we all depend on the refuse workers. More of
them are needed, not less.
Do more, get less…
Equal pay will be made by reducing the number of
grades and cutting out their bonuses. Overall pay for the refuse collection
workers could be cut by around £4,000 a year. In addition to emptying the
buckets, they will take on over twenty extra duties as
“multi-skilled” Neighbourhood Workers connected with gardening,
street cleaning, house clearing, public education and warnings and report
writing. All for less money!, Mark Turley, Director for Services for
Communities, wrote in his statement of 7th July,2009
“For staff in refuse collection and street management …This
new way of working would increase productivity and we will therefore need less
people in some areas, but we believe we can do that without compulsory
redundancies.” This old story of getting more for less by the
bosses has been rejected by the workers. Like the oil site construction workers, the posties and the Vesta wind turbine workers,
they also should be congratulated and fully backed for their stand.
The workers’ Unite Branch will get details
of another offer from the Council when they meet together on Thursday 28th.
.However, Stevie McGregor, Unite Branch Convenor, was reported as saying
they don’t want the “maybes and mights” they’ve so far
had for the Council. The Union negotiators want a concrete offer they can
discuss wit the members and Council.
Unite is balloting all its members to take
action in support of the Cleansing Workers. It is possible that the industrial
action will take place towards the
end of the Edinburgh International Festival. Already the workers
have been condemned by a leading nationalist councillor and former left wing
trade union activist for their refusal to be bullied into accepting these cuts.
He is reported implying that the workers are opening their jobs to
privatisation. To – day it has been announced that the Council have contracted
the supply teaching service to Blue Arrow because it is cost effective for them
to allocate the work. Around 900 supply teachers are used.
Disgracefully the Labour Councillors say
these pay cuts and job changes have to come in. They have only criticised the
Council for mishandling the dispute, provoking action at the wrong time, when
all these nice tourists are here to enjoy themselves in our nice city. Last week
commercial waste disposal firm Shanks was used to clean up the City centre for
the International Clan Gathering. It wouldn’t have done to have all these
Chiefs and their kiltie kin, Duchess Camilla and her Prince Charlie, to see and
sniff a not so bonny sight on the Royal Mile, extending all the way down to
Palace and Parliament.
In a few weeks we may well have an extra drama for the
thousands of tourists to experience. However this is not just another
entertainment for visitors, but a real life struggle, the outcome of which
affects all workers locally and nationally. Cleansing workers have found themselves
in the front line of this attack by the Council, behind which is the labour
Government, to force through cuts in pay, jobs and working conditions. It is an
opportunity to rally all workers to give support by spreading the action. Victory
to the cleansing workers now will benefit all workers facing the same battle
down the line.
Click here to read another report sent last week.