Council strike talks to enter fifth day amid mounting concerns over waste

COSLA met with union members on Sunday, but no resolution has yet been reached.

Bin strike talks to continue between COSLA, GMB and Unison amid public health warning over waste STV News

Talks on a new pay deal for public sector workers are to enter their fifth day on Monday amid mounting concerns over the public health impact of waste piling up on Scottish streets.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) met on Sunday for further talks with unions over a wage rise for the lowest paid workers which would bring an end to more than a week of strikes in some areas.

Two thirds of Scotland’s local authorities are affected and many towns and city centres have seen rubbish piling on streets as bins overflow.

Waste workers in Edinburgh are on day ten of an 11-day walkout over a “paltry” offer, while a further 20 council areas are also now undertaking industrial action.

School staff in some local authorities, including Glasgow, have balloted for strikes in early September if a flat-rate increase is not agreed before then.

Unions want a similar agreement to the one in place in England – where workers were given a blanket uplift of  £1,925.

It comes after Public Health Scotland (PHS) warned that streets may need to be “decontaminated” in an effort to avoid the risk of spreading disease.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has already said the piles of rubbish building up throughout the capital are “deeply concerning”.

PHS warned “if organic waste builds up it can become a risk to human health”.

People are being advised to double bag items such as food waste and used nappies or put them in containers.

The health body said the impact of waste on health is “varied” and “may depend on numerous factors, including the nature of the waste and weather conditions that may accelerate decomposition of waste”.

It said: “There are some simple precautions which people can take in order to reduce the possible health impacts of waste.

“When handling waste at home, people should always wash hands thoroughly. Where possible, organic waste and medical waste should be stored in containers.

“If containers are not available, waste which is likely to rot or decompose should be double bagged.”

The City of Edinburgh Council have said that additional resources would be deployed to support the clean up on Tuesday when the strike ends, however it has been warned that it will take time for things to return to normal.

Council leader Cammy Day said he is “continuing to press the Scottish Government to fund an acceptable settlement”. 

He added: “As I’ve said throughout, I fully respect the right of our colleagues to take this action and have their voices heard. As a trade union member myself, I’ve joined the picket lines in support of fair pay for our workforce and will do so again.

“This dispute has brought the value of our waste and cleansing teams – and their right to fair wage – into sharp focus and I’m delighted they’ll be back out from Tuesday, helping to return our city to its best.

“While they’ll be working hard to catch up on collections and making every effort to collect litter across the city, it’ll take time for things to return to normal. Please bear with them as they do so and, if you can store your extra waste safely for a little longer or are able to book an appointment at a recycling centre, please do so.

“If your bin is not collected on its normal day, please leave it out and it’ll be picked up as soon as possible thereafter.”

Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government, Miles Briggs said: “The news that council pay talks have failed to reach a resolution again today will come as a huge blow to people and businesses across the country.

“Edinburgh is already overflowing with rubbish and waste as a result of these strikes – and towns across the country will soon be going the same way.

“The SNP’s years of savage cuts to local authority budgets lie at the heart of this nationwide dispute, and the longer these strikes go on, the more difficult the clean-up will be.

“The SNP Government must stop dodging responsibility, get round the table with councils and unions, and get this situation under control.”

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