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Waste workers set to strike during Edinburgh Fringe festival

The Fringe is taking place in August (David Cheskin/PA)
The Fringe is taking place in August (David Cheskin/PA)

Waste and recycling workers in Edinburgh are set to go on strike during the city’s Fringe festival in a dispute over pay.

Unite the union says the 2% offer members have received is “derisory” and a first wave of industrial action has been announced.

The days of strike action are due to begin on August 18 and end on August 30, with around 250 workers expected to take part.

The Edinburgh Fringe arts festival begins on Friday and runs until August 29. It is returning in full-scale form this year following the pandemic.

Union strike action
Unite says around 250 workers will take part (Liam McBurney/PA)

Council workers in three unions across Scotland – the GMB, Unison and Unite – have already given their backing to industrial action after rejecting the 2% pay increase offered to them local authority leaders.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members can’t tolerate derisory pay offers any longer from Cosla or the Scottish Government who ultimately control the purse strings.

“We believe the public of Edinburgh and across Scotland will support our members in taking this stand because no worker should be forced to accept a ‘take it or leave it’ real terms pay cut.

“Our members simply have no choice but to take strike action in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

Separately, the trade union Unison warned Cosla leaders that a significantly improved pay offer was needed in order to avert strike action by their members.

Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s head of local government, said: “Cosla leaders and the Scottish Government need to understand the seriousness of this situation.

“The joint trade unions who represent local government workers have had extensive discussions to plan and co-ordinate industrial action across Scotland.

“If council leaders do not substantially improve their pay offer for local government workers Unison, along with Unite and the GMB, will be notifying employers in the coming days of planned long-term disruptive strike action.”

She continued: “We have already written to Cosla to warn them that the trade unions have between them legal mandates to disrupt the operation of over 1,200 schools across 16 local authorities and the waste/recycling services across 25 local authorities in Scotland.

“They have done little to try and engage with us, even though we stand ready to talk to them. The last thing Unison members want to do is strike.

“But that’s what we will do unless a substantially improved offer is on the table after tomorrow’s meeting.”

Councillor Cammy Day, leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “I’m extremely disappointed that negotiations between Scottish Government, Cosla and the unions have failed to avert this action and would urge all parties to come together to prevent disruption during one of the most important and enjoyable periods in Edinburgh’s calendar.

“I want to assure residents that we’ll be doing all we can to minimise any impact on essential services.

“While, of course, I hope agreement is reached swiftly, our crews deserve to be paid fairly for the work they do, and I once again call on the Scottish Government to properly fund our capital city and its services.”