Edinburgh Muckraker

Online archive of the Edinburgh Muckraker, a bulletin initiated by anarchist supporters of, eventually victorious, striking refuse workers in Edinburgh who were facing pay cuts in the name of "equal pay" during the council's "single status" changes.

Edinburgh Muckraker 1

The first issue of the Edinburgh Muckraker, a freesheet produced and distributed in support of local government workers struggling against pay cuts.

The Edinburgh Muckraker is produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, misinformation and threats.

We encourage and assist effective action to win this dispute. We aim to help Council and other workers to come together across sectional and union divides.

We see this dispute as part of a bigger battle by all working class people to fight for our needs against this profit-based system, in which people are exploited and kept down.

Interested? Please get in touch.

By Email: edinburghmuckraker@riseup.net

By Post:
The Edinburgh Muckraker,
c/o ACE,
17 West Montgomery Place,

By Phone: 0131 557 6242


Dump on the Council!

Work in the cleansing department, or another part of the Council getting shafted by pay modernisation?
Tell us. Anonymity guaranteed.

muckraker_issue01.pdf2.15 MB

Edinburgh Muckraker 2

The second issue of the Edinburgh Muckraker, a freesheet produced and distributed in support of local government workers struggling against pay cuts.

The Edinburgh Muckraker is produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, misinformation and threats.

We encourage and assist effective action to win this dispute. We aim to help Council and other workers to come together across sectional and union divides.

We see this dispute as part of a bigger battle by all working class people to fight for our needs against this profit-based system, in which people are exploited and kept down.

Interested? Please get in touch.

By Email: edinburghmuckraker@riseup.net

By Post:
The Edinburgh Muckraker,
c/o ACE,
17 West Montgomery Place,

By Phone: 0131 557 6242


Dump on the Council!

Work in the cleansing department, or another part of the Council getting shafted by pay modernisation?
Tell us. Anonymity guaranteed.

muckraker_issue02.pdf8.68 MB

Edinburgh Muckraker 3

The Edinburgh Muckraker was produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, mis-information and threats.
This issue is from early 2010. The text is below and the print version attached as PDF.

Equal Pay, Not Low Pay
On 5 January 2010 Mark Turley, Director of Services for Communites for the City of Edinburgh Council informed council staff that the Council has moved into a process of Statutory Consultation to reach an agreement on Modernising Pay proposals. Should no agrement be reached during this 90 days consultation period, the Council will issue a 90 day notice to both manual and office workers.
With employment law being employers law at the end of the day, 90 day notices are the employers finest get out of jail free cards and has been widely used by employers undertaking Single Status.
What it means is that employees are issued new contracts to sign outlining new conditions. If an employee does not voluntarily sign up to the new conditions then contracts are changed unilaterally after 90 days without further attempts at negotiation and any changes will take place regardless with changes to pay kicking-inin 3 years' time. It is known as 'imposition' and the only way to oppose them is through industrial action. Edinburgh Council have invested the LEAST AMOUNT in Single Status in Scotland and are now trying to impose new contracts that will leave women no better off, leave the highest paid untouched, and leave the lowest paid with wage cuts of up to £6000.

Two Sides To Every Story
Edinburgh Evenings News recently reported that the bin men had ‘walked out’ due to the recent weather conditions. This is simply not true.
Refuse Collection Drivers & their crews were instructed by Edinburgh Council that they must complete their domestic bin routes or they would not receive full pay under the 'Partial Performance' detriment brought in near the beginning of the dispute which resulted in Unite's 'Work to Contract' Industrial Action.
Bin workers had requested that routes be assessed by the Health and Safety Officer. 'Partial performance' has been used during the dispute to dock the pay of workers – even when they were signed off sick by their GP with medical certificates – so assurances were sought from management that anyone injured while on duty would not have their pay docked. By midday the Acting Operations Manager, Hollman, told the workers that they weren't going to wait around any longer and so he sent them home.
Fears of injury were legitimate­ – several workers have been injured due to the roads and pavements being covered with hard packed snow and ice.

Thatcherite Turley 'Man of Steel'
The Evening News showed their true colours again recently when Sandra Dick interviewed the 'man of steel', Mark Turley. This followed Turley’s illustrious career as a debt­ collector in Sheffield at a time when miners faced great hardship, to Director of Services for Communities for City of Edinburgh Council.
Dick paints a picture of a tough, capable, family man who we can trust to handle these militant no­gooders who she feels have had it too good for too long with their "cushy job".
The Muckraker would hazard a guess that Dick wouldn’t swap her current employment for a cushy career in refuse collection, but it makes you wonder why she clearly resents the workers enjoying the ‘benefits’ that they once had. Dick shows her thoroughness by failing to ask who approved the routes, shift patterns, and the terms and conditions in the first place, and what reasons there could have been to do so. Dick is not on her own in seeming to want the Council to get on and smash these workshy remnants of 70s militancy and do anything within their means to do so. These workers should count their lucky stars that they have a job at all, shouldn’t they? Good job the employees can count on the Councils Head of Resources, Philip Barr, who told the workers outright that they were not worth the money they're paid.
As every low­earner will recognise, the prospect of losing a third of their wage is a frightening one. This is a struggle to preserve security and not a fight for more pay. As mortgages are tied to current earnings, slashing salaries risks people losing their homes through no fault of their own. So as RBS bosses and other bankers get their bonuses, and as Turley on his cushy current salary of £120,513 plus expenses, along with the other 1,600 high­ earners that cost £1.25 in every £100 spent on services in Scotland, still bring home obscene amounts of money, manual council workers have the nerve to stand up and say no to losing a third of their pay. The cheek of it! No wonder Sandra Dick is getting behind a “modern day, local version of Thatcher” to put an end to this greed.

Despite huge efforts by the Council management to divide the street cleaners and the refuse collectors, the vast majority of the street cleaners are standing firm and maintaining the overtime ban and work to rule.
In late December a street cleaner told The Muckraker that out of around 200 street cleaners there were only 7 or 8 scabs.
“Management have 7 or 8 scabs working at the Seafield depot, they’re kept away from everyone else. The Council says they’ve happy no money but they're happt to give these scabs money to do phantom work for work, they’re making up work for them to do.
“The Council’s trying to encourage other workers to scab – but this has made a lot of people dig their heels in,“ the street cleaner explained. “The scabs have isolated themselves. They’re happy to take the benefits of being in the Union but they won’t make the sacrifices. We want them kicked out the Union the Union official says that's not how Unions conduct themselves. But that’s what we want, we want them expelled.”

The heavily criticised tender process for care and support services was finally dropped today. The process, which would have seen the transfer of vital services for 800 vulnerable adults transferred to new, cheaper providers, was suspended in December pending an independent evaluation.
Council Chief Executive Tom Aitchison concluded that the findings of the report left the Council with no other choice but to drop the whole tender process.
The report, which is being kept confidential, found that that the process was not sufficiently “meticulous” as well as casting doubts over the “quality assurance process”.
The collapse of the tender has led to campaign groups and opposition councillors calling for the resignation of Paul Edie, the City’s health and social care convener.
A member of Edinburgh Support Workers’ Action Network (SWAN) told the Muckraker:
“We have been saying this process was flawed all along. This has now been verified by an independent evaluation but were it not for the tireless campaigning of service­ users and care workers the tender would have been pushed through months ago. Paul Edie described the process as “robust” as recently as December. Now the Council has spent £80k of taxpayers’ money on this independent report. £80k could provide a 10 hour support package for 10 vulnerable people for a whole year and yet it has been wasted on discovering that Paul Edie’s process was not as ‘robust’ as he has been telling us”.
Unelected Council officials have also come in for criticism for overseeing the process and making recommendations which are now seen as discredited, SWAN told us:
“We think it’s disgraceful that people like Peter Gabbitas and Mark Turley who earn over £120k have tried to use a flawed process to target those on low incomes and people with disabilities who depend on good quality services and we call for them to be brought to account for their actions”.
Whilst they are celebrating this victory campaign groups say their fight is not yet over. The Council still intends to use Direct Payment rates based on the flawed tender process to reduce funding to services. With continued protests and legal challenges promised this is proving to be an issue that will not go away for the City of Edinburgh Council.

City of Edinburgh Council are using a combination of threats, lies and cunning to try and harass the street cleaners, refuse collectors, gardeners and other manual workers into accepting pay cuts and worse conditions. Street Cleansing, refuse collection workers, Road Workers, waste disposal workers, Gardeners, Toilet Attendants, “Specialist Services” and Gravediggers are all affected. Chief hitman is Director of Community Services Mark Turley (annual salary £120,513)
A street cleansing employee (annual salary £19,212) writes:
“The council are using 'gun to the head' bargaining and I for one will not be bullied into agreeing to a deal that would see my family lose thousands of pounds and miss out on crucial family time with my wife and four young children.”
The Council have set up a series of “focus groups” to try and con the workers into agreeing to a worsening of wages and conditions. Central to the Council strategy has been an attempt to divide the refuse collectors (bin men and women), traditionally seen as a well­ organised group, from the street cleaners and other workers. The age­-old bosses’ tactic of divide and rule.
On 22nd December Mark "Lying Toad" Turley claimed:
“I think it is fair to say that everybody has found the staff focus groups a very useful way developing of looking at proposals for Future State and these will continue...”
A street cleansing employee who has been directly involved in the 'Future State' discussions writes that "I have found each and every meeting to be nothing more than a 'Management talk shop'."
“Management reckon that because of the threat of 'Philip Barr's Job Evaluations', staff are so desperate that we can be conned into accepting their proposals. This the same evaluation process that will see Management receive substantial pay rises while others will lose thousands.
“Under these proposals Street Cleaners would have to work more unsociable hours and the majority of staff would still lose thousands of pounds after a 3 year pay freeze.
"I have been more than conscious of the potential 'divide and conquer' strategy of Edinburgh Council management (attempt to crack a deal with street cleansing, alienating our colleagues in Refuse Collection). Being a party to this could never ever be an option. All the proposals are totally unacceptable.“
It will be vital that workers themselves organise to make sure that the workforce are not bullied or hoodwinked into accepting cuts in wages and conditions. A grass­roots workers' action committee could be vital in this activity.
What’s more, it will be in the interests of all Edinburgh residents to show solidarity with Edinburgh Council workers, as all of us are set to be affected by the privatizations and massive cuts the Council is planning – it’s really important all these struggles come together.

muckraker_issue03.pdf1.73 MB
I have been more than conscious of the potential 'divide and conquer' strategy of Edinburgh Council management. Being a party to this could never ever be an option. All the proposals are totally unacceptable.
Street cleansing employee

Edinburgh Muckraker 4

The Edinburgh Muckraker was produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, mis-information and threats.
This issue is from mid-2010 and deals mostly with the Council's 'equalising' pay scheme. The text is below and the print version attached as PDF.

The family fortune hasn’t been entirely squandered, but what’s left of the estate is being parcelled-off through the privatisation of the school system, NHS, fire control, the Royal Mail, the MoD. City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) have earmarked catering, cleansing, security, maintenance, property, refuse, cleansing, revenue and benefits, HR, and customer services for privatisation.
Cultural services, transport should and legal services are being buffed up in preparation for outsourcing through multi-million pound ‘strategic partnerships’ or ‘joint ventures’. Have they neither scruples nor sense? "The dafties’d sell their own grannies for a song", the sentiment of this council employee suggests not.
Privatisation leads to worse services, increased costs and huge bills to bring failed services back in-house — the arguments in favour known to be flimsy. So if you can't beat them, cheat! A reasonable way of evaluating options for service provision might be to study the effects of privatisation in ‘comparable’ authorities to Edinburgh, but could England's smallest metropolitan borough, South Tyneside offer a good comparison?
The council seem to think so. But good advice has a price, £31.5 million this time for the consultants’ smoke and mirrors.
The only way that these services can be delivered more cheaply and make a profit, is to attack workers pay and conditions. Plans to move to the next stage of the process involves outsourcing up to 3,500 jobs which will inevitably lead to job losses. The councils case for privatisation lacks credibility and will be wasteful beyond belief. Three out of five of the companies shortlisted for the facilities contract alone, were fined by the Office of Fair Trading in 2009 for ‘illegal bid-rigging’, and fined a total of around £340 million.
The Council spent over £36 million on consultants last year. Cutting agency costs in local government and replacing PFI projects with conventional procurement could save over £34 billion.

Turley’s Future State of Disarray
Director of Services for Communities in Edinburgh, Mark Turley, and those he represents on Edinburgh City Council, thinks that working class people are buttoned up the back.
His Future State Offer pay deal for the city’s refuse collectors is an insult. A refuse collector in Edinburgh is
currently on a basic annual salary of £12,234. An annual bonus takes this up to £18,963, which nobody in their right mind could consider exorbitant by today’s standards. It certainly comes nowhere close to Turley’s six figure salary, hefty bonus and expense account.
Now he expects that same refuse collector to accept a revised pay offer amounting to an annual salary of £17,333, which would mean an annual pay cut of £1,630.
Not only that, under the new proposed terms and conditions, the men will be expected to work public holidays for no extra pay. A binman speaking to us anonymously had this to say: “We've no objection to the lassies getting equality in pay, but they should be bringing their wages up, not putting our wages down.”
Mark Turley thinks he can fool people into believing there’s no alternative under the Single Status pay legislation, introduced by the previous government to ensure that public sector pay for men and women is harmonised. As the worker quoted above says, it is absolutely right that women should be treated the same as men regards pay and conditions. However, pay for women should be equalised up instead of forcing existing pay for men down.
What it amounts to is an attempt to take food out of the mouths of the families of working class people.
Mr Turley thinks he can get away with demonising and smearing our binmen in the local press, slagging them off as lazy and unreasonable. He thinks he can hire thugs as managers and supervisors to intimidate and batter them into submission.
What he forgets that workers in this country have fought and won against the class he represents before.
We can do so again.

30 years of hurt
After ignoring the Equal Pay Act for a generation, Edinburgh is choosing to press down on workers’ wages
For over 30 years Edinburgh City Council has failed to meet its legal obligation under the Equal Pay Act. Rather than the council raising the pay of women to match that of men, it is equalising down by lowering salaries and forcing both men and women onto poorer terms and conditions.
Three-quarters of the workforce are women but there's a part-time gender pay gap in Scotland of 33%, means that women working part-time earn 67p per hour, for every £1 per hour that a man working full-time earns. Many of the workers set to lose thousands of pounds under Modernising Pay are in female dominated and ‘low paid’ posts such a social care workers, home helps, residential care workers, domestics, service support workers, clerical workers, office staff and community care assistants. Others include refuse collectors, street cleaners, drivers, gardeners, library assistants, development officers, and school administrators.
Those most affected are shift workers in 24 hour services who work during nights, weekends and public holidays, who will lose out on their shift allowances, weekend enhancements and bonuses. For instance, a night shift worker receiving time-and-a-half, will only get £1.92 per hour more under new conditions. The Council claims that 80% are winners under Modernising Pay, but they are fiddling the figures by only referring to base pay and not the take home pay – so staff may find their base pay goes up but their take home pay goes down. With inflation running at 4.4%, the Councils offer of a 1% pay increase 1% this year, 0% next year, and 0.5% the year after, this is a huge pay cut. Usually, the government’s Public Sector Pay Policy advocates for single year deals but this multi-year deal is designed so that Scottish Parliament elections in 2011 and local government elections in 2012 are not affected by all those voters who are losing out.
5,000 people have protected their legal rights by not signing up to ‘Modernising Pay’ voluntarily. Now Edinburgh Council will impose ‘Modernising Pay’ by dismissing and re-engaging over 17,000 staff. Unison is holding a consultative ballot that will close at midday on 29 July 2010. If the majority of members vote against the three year pay cut and Edinburgh council refuses to re-negotiate, a further ballot of members will take place on taking industrial action.

Street Cleansing Battle On
A controversial close vote saw UNITE street cleansing accept their offer.
But, a worker writes, refuse collection will not be alone if they reject 'Future State': “Over a third of the union members in street cleansing are in UNISON and we unanimously rejected CEC’s pitiful offer. We intend to immediately put in 'Unfair Dismissal' claims from our 'Current Contracts' when they force us onto the unsocial working hours and make us work them for 3 years with no extra pay - and then take a pay cut that could be thousands if an employee cannot jump through CEC senior management hoops, no sickness, kissing managers ass etc.
'Future State' management figures conveniently ignore these facts and that if workers do not work back shift they will not get the Working Time Payments. Unite Union hierarchy and management are conspiring in the 'Don't accept Future State and you will get privatised' con; but privatisation is politically motivated and Refuse Workers could accept their pitiful 'Future State' offer and still Dawe’s mob privatise them.”

The 'common sense' that massive cuts must be made fills the papers and flows from from the mouths of Labour and Tory-LibDem politicians, but national debt is not at record levels and their drive for austerity is only a desire for wage cuts and lucrative privatisation.
National debt was far higher during the 1960s, when the UK was in a prolonged period of rising wages and living standards. It is ludicrous of the Tories to claim that Britain in 2010 cannot afford essential services, when a bankrupted and war-torn Britain of 1948 could afford to create the National Health Service.
When a public service is sold off and run for profit the quality of service has to fall, otherwise there would be no money in it for the businesses concerned. And essential services can't be allowed to fail; time and time again, when a privatised service has made profit, it goes into private pockets, when it has made a loss, the government foots the bill.
There is almost no separation between government and business interests. The Tory advisor responsible for their NHS partial privatisation plans works for General Healthcare Group, the largest private sector health company in the UK. They are set to profit from NHS cuts. They call it restructuring, but it is nothing more than embezzlement.
Cuts to services are not necessary or unavoidable. It was an organised movement against unbridled capitalism that built the welfare state, and only such a movement can defend it.

Union Officials — Whose Side Are They On?
Binmen told the Muckraker:
“The UNITE Union haven't been giving us any information. The workers don't know what's happening. We have discovered that officials of the Union have actually been working against us, on the side of the Council...
“Two recent Branch meetings were cancelled, we suspect that was to stop workers asking questions. Workers are very dissatisfied with UNITE, they have been discussing leaving.”
The Muckraker says...
“The official Union structures are now part of the whole exploiting system, the top Union bosses don't want to rock the boat. Workers need to control their own organisations.”

“Paul the Binman” speaks
Victimised for speaking out on the bin dispute, he writes from the sharp end for the Muckraker
At last the truth is out and the issue of “single status” is open to public scrutiny. The council have stopped hiding behind the ridicules notion that this dispute has been about lazy workshy greedy bin men and their mates in the cleansing departments.
This is the lie that has been trotted out time and time again to justify the heavy handed and in some cases, clear bullying approach to industrial negotiations this council has pursued in its attempt to crush the unions and slash its budgets to appease its political masters.
The executive have chosen to do this by destroying the quality of life of its lowest paid staff and their families. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had introduced the same percentage of cuts to its senior managers and executives wages? Surely, in the search of fairness then these cuts should have been council wide, Aye right...
This council and its executive has shown the utter contempt it has for its own workforce. Why else would it say, we value our staff so much that we are going to increase their workload and increase their hours while slashing the wages. But hey, they're only manual grades and as such are overpaid anyway.
The contracts the staff are being forced to sign is the original offer, this is still a reduction of thousands. The council claim future state will off set these losses. A loss is still a loss. The grade enhancements they are proposing are only possible at the end of the financial year if the council has money in the kitty. Imagine you expecting someone to do work for you on the off chance that you can afford to pay them at the end of the job.
The government claim these cuts are required, they claim the Austerity measures are needed, they claim we are all to blame, we all lived beyond our means. Sorry, I never spent billions I never had nor did anyone else I know.
Why is it the poorest of in our society have to pay for the lifestyles of the rich and infamous? How can it be right that community centres have to close? Schools are being forced to close, pupils are being moved yet new teachers are being forced to move South to find jobs.
Why is it ministers here in Scotland can speak in defence of jobs in the private sector yet stay silent on the loss of thousands of jobs in the public sector?
How can we speak about the mismanagement of the banking sector yet ignore the mismanagement of our councils?
Why is it right for our councils to pay the private sector for the delivery of our public services yet wrong to pay the public sector for those same services?
Why is it wrong to use the public purse to provide jobs to provide the public services yet right to put thousands of public sector workers out of work and use tax money to keep them out of work?
Good job I'm just a lowly manual worker who doesn't understand politics. I guess we have to find the money for the Trams somehow...

Organised Support Workers Fight & Win
Since the council manual workers’ long fight to protect their wages began, many other campaigns to protect workers and services have taken on the City's Council. One of these struggles showed that ordinary workers, service-users and activists could take on the Council – and win!
As vital care and support services for people with disabilities were set to be sold off to low cost private companies a grassroots campaign quickly developed to stand in the LibDem / SNP administration’s way. These services are provided by voluntary sector organisations that were forced to compete with each other for contracts and that traditionally have very low union membership. Because of this the struggle was started not by care organisations or trade unions but by ordinary parents and carers, advocacy and disability rights groups and self organised workers.
One of these groups, Edinburgh Support Workers’ Action Network (SWAN), was quickly set up by a small group of support workers and succeeded in bringing together staff from several service providers to organise against the Council’s disastrous plans.
The campaign finally saw the tender scrapped in February of this year ensuring 800 people kept their services and protecting 1000s of jobs. Although SWAN actively promote unions, seeing them as vital to protecting jobs and services, their example also shows that we cannot always wait for someone else to to take up our fight.

Council’s Thievery
Not happy with forcing paycuts, they’re picking pockets
Some refuse collectors took the Council to tribunals for refusing to pay them wages due, under so-called “partial performance” deductions. The Council thieves docked workers' wages because they were banning overtime (which is not compulsory) and because they were following the Council Health and Safety rules.
In most cases the Council have belatedly admitted they were wrong and paid up. But some cases are still disputed, and as one worker told the Muckraker:
“For me it was not just about the money, it was about all the bullying and intimidation. It was a lot of stress.”
Some workers got together to refuse to sign management forms promising they would work “normally”, asking the supervisor to get management to sign a form stating that they are asking the workers to work against health and safety rules. No more was said to them about signing the form. A good tactic to remember!

Management Bullies — We Are Above You
A supervisor aggressively jabbed his finger into the chest of a worker at Russell Road refuse collectors depot — but the management sacked the worker! As we write the worker was appealing the decision. The supervisor went for the worker, a driver, after the worker had pulled him up about the supervisor's disgraceful behaviour while crossing the picket line at the Craigmillar depot — the supervisor made “loadsa money” gestures, then pointed at the worker on the picket and made a show of writing his name in his notebook, indicating he was going to report him.
This same supervisor has got 3 workers at Russell Road suspended by the management bullies, headed by Acting Operations Manager A. Holman.

Council Bullies — We Are Above the Law
A cleansing department worker went to the Council Human Resources department last autumn to lodge a grievance against his managers for intimidation, victimisation and harassment.
But he was told Mr Barr, Head of HR, had ruled that workers could not lodge grievances while the dispute continued. Instead the worker would have to raise the issue with the very people he was complaining about!
Does this mean that during a dispute Management are allowed to bully, intimidate and harass workers? How can the Council suspend the operation of their own official grievance procedure?

muckraker_issue04.pdf1.4 MB
We've no objection to the lassies getting equality in pay, but they should be bringing their wages up, not putting our wages down.
anonymous binman

Edinburgh Muckraker 5

This issue of Edinburgh Muckraker was produced in response to the upcoming vote by Edinburgh Council on Oct 27th on the privatisation of council services, and to support the refuse collection workers and street cleaners in their ongoing dispute - so far hundreds of copies have been distributed at waste depots and council offices around the city.

The Edinburgh Muckraker is produced by an independent group in solidarity with council workers, to inform the people of Edinburgh what is really going on behind the lies, misinformation and threats. We encourage and assist effective action to win this dispute. We aim to help Council and other workers to come together across sectional and union divides.

The privatisation story so far...
Edinburgh Council plan to sell off essential services to private companies. Service quality, working conditions, wages and jobs will all be under attack if we let this go through.
The ‘Integrated Facilities Management’, ‘Corporate & Transactional Services’ and ‘Environmental’ packages group different services into convenient grab-bags for companies to bid for.
Read on to find out why some think that cleansing & waste services, who have been taking industrial action for an incredible 2 years are being set up and sold out.

Resist Privatisation: No Sell-out of Environmental Services
A number of employees within Refuse Collection, Street Cleansing, Gardening and Fleet Services have suggested that the Environment Package is being offered ‘as a sacrificial Lamb’ by trade union officials. Here is one council worker's view.

We know from reliable sources that ‘Trade Union Side Lead Negotiator’, Peter Hunter, has for a while been publicly stating that a deal had been done, accepting privatisation of the Refuse Collection and the Environment Package. This deal would safeguard Integrated Facilities Management, as well as Corporate & Transactional Services. This may well be a personal or professional opinion or it could be that keeping the other two office based packages is more important to UNISON than keeping the manual side.

Adding to this the fact that Unite the Union officials are just not up to the task and the GMB are pretty much none existent within Edinburgh Council membership wise, it means that if the workforce sit back and leave it up to the hierarchy of recognised trade unions the ‘Environmental Services’ will definitely be ‘PRIVATISED’.

Picking up after union officials
We are also told by the recognised trade unions that the council have not followed the ‘statutory’ process they should have. Why the Trade Unions do not raise some form of legal challenge to the Council not adhering to a ‘statutory’ process is bewildering to say the least.

Due to the above and the many, many other recent failings (e.g. last years ‘Pay Negotiations’, the entire ‘Modernising Pay’ situation, then the ‘Future State’ detriments, to name but a few) a number of employees within Refuse Collection and Street Cleansing and other sections within the ‘Environmental Package’, have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Refuse Collection employees have sought representation from a private lawyer to fight the council on issues that Unite the Union have failed to address and there is also talk of a mass walk out of staff (along with Street Cleansing & Gardeners) on the day Edinburgh councillors will make the decision whether to privatise the Environmental Service.

Service: To Boldly Go Down the Drain
At a recent Street Cleansing workplace meeting with Enterprise, they admitted that there would be cuts to staff numbers and vehicles. Staff were not fooled by the promise of stopping the unpopular 9pm finishing time within Street Cleansing and saw it for what it was, a saving of £2000 per head. In theory staff being transferred to a private company should have their pay and conditions protected by TUPE legislation. However this does not offer genuine protection as 'a new employer may seek changes for economic, technical or organisational reasons’. This means that once a new company takes on the workforce it can begin to cut wages or change working conditions on day 1, after the transfer from the council.

Remember that this is not a fight for a pay rise or to keep public holidays or annual leave or to protect pensions or any other terms of condition we have, these are all important and can be fought after we fight privatisation. This is a fight against privatisation and is a fight to keep control of the services with the people of Edinburgh and if you are an employee it is simply a fight to keep your job.

As Edinburgh Council looks to decimate its environmental services Muckraker looks at examples from across the UK where workers have fought back… and won.
In 2001 the private company SITA, operating Brighton refuse collection and street cleaning, imposed oppressive new working conditions._ The workers refused to comply – and were immediately all sacked._ But the workers didn't fold – instead they occupied their depot, and prepared to defend it against any police attack._ *With support from local activists workers blockaded scab bin lorries and persuaded employment agency workers not to scab.*So effective was this direct action that after 4 days occupation, the workers won their struggle. The Council were forced to terminate the private contract and bring the service back in-house, while re-instating all the workers who had been sacked.

More recently refuse workers in Leeds faced a much longer battle against pay cuts amounting to £5k per year. On the 5th September 2009 refuse collectors walked out on strike after 70% voted in favour of action. This would not be a token one day effort but all out strike. Leeds Council confidently predicted that the workers would crumble within 2 weeks.

They didn’t.

Then they used the media to try and eradicate public support for the bin men accusing them of being “lazy” and “putting vulnerable people at risk” This failed. Massive public support saw local residents join picket lines and donate cash to the strikers.

Growing increasingly desperate the Lib Dem authority threatened the workers with privatisation and brought in an army of scabs to do the work, confidently assuring residents their rubbish would now be collected. The workers would not be intimidated and held out as private agency staff failed to cope with the workload.

After 11 weeks of all out strike action the Council crumbled and the 500 workers marched back to work having won complete victory against the planned pay cuts.

Bin Latest: An update from inside the refuse collection department.
On 19 August refuse collection workers voted to call off their 2-year overtime ban opposing wage cuts and worse conditions. But the workers are continuing the work to rule, which is mainly about strictly following health and safety procedures. The meeting was poorly advertised, with only 30-40 workers present.

In April, 150-200 refuse collection workers had held a mass meeting and 80-90% voted in favour of a strike ballot. However the Unite union did nothing to implement the ballot. At the same meeting workers voted to restart the unofficial Saturday pickets against scabs breaking the overtime ban, mainly operating out of the Craigmillar depot.
Nearly 50 workers have independently taken the Council to Employment Tribunals, to maintain their current wages and conditions. The Tribunals are due to restart in early October.

Workers are deeply frustrated with the union. A recent branch meeting voted overwhelmingly to remove Unite convener Stephen McGregor, as the workers felt he was not giving them any information and they had no confidence in him, he was not defending the workers' rights. However McGregor refused to step down, to the workers' anger.
We say: The need for independent workers' organisation is clear.

Southampton Strikes Back
Last month workers in Southampton carried out a week of targeted strike action against brutal cuts imposed by the local council. The strikes follow months of anti-cuts action by locals, but the immediate cause of the dispute was the council’s demand for workers to take a pay cut and accept hundreds of job losses. When these demands were rejected by the workers’ unions, the council announced that the entire workforce was sacked - saying that any worker who reused to sign the new contracts the council had drawn up would lose their job. At the same time, a leaked document showed that 1200 workers, a quarter of the workforce, would be laid off over the next few years anyway. The response from said workforce was, unsurprisingly, furious.

Workers from across the public sector in Southampton took part in the strikes, which were planned to cause maximum disruption to the running of local government. Those stopping work included binmen, health inspectors, parking wardens, street sweepers, childcare workers, library workers and social care workers among others. A protest march through the town attracted hundreds of workers, ending by protesting outside the local guildhall during a meeting of the council. Despite significant disruption to the life of the town, including festering piles of rubbish in the streets, most workers reported that support from locals remained strong.

While most of Southampton's workers have had to sign the new contracts, under protest, there are still groups of workers who have not who now face the prospect of lockouts, and the struggle isn’t over yet. Unite and Unison, two unions associated with the week of action, say they are pursuing legal action on the grounds of unfair dismissal of council staff. As we go to press, a one day strike by social workers has been extended to a full seven days, continuing into the beginning of August, to coincide with strikes by workers in other sectors including adoption, fostering and childcare over the next few days.

Toxic! The firms who want Edinburgh's rubbish have dirty hands
SNP and Lib Dem run the council. Neither said they would privatise services, but now City of Edinburgh Council wants to push through the largest privatisation of council services in Scottish history. Previous bidder, Veolia, was turned down in part due to their culpability for the release of toxic fumes which caused staff to need medical treatment. Yet the £1 billion privatisation plan still looks like it could go toxic.

Two bidders are still in the running, Kier Group and Enterprise, despite concealing criminal convictions for fatal workplace accidents, even when given the chance to ‘come clean’. Several of the firms have been issued with fines for illegal price-fixing in public sector contracts. Kier Group receiving the largest fine, originally amounting to £17.9m. Yet elected councillors were never informed of this.

There are 3 significant reasons why there needs to be public consultation before preferred bidders are announced. The sheer scale of the privatisation, effecting 17 services will affect every citizen. The gross mismanagement of the Trams project and the social care tender has led to a reputational crisis for the Council. The council have already failed to meet legal obligations in the tender process.

UK Strikes Against Cuts
On the 30th June, 30,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union in Scotland joined three quarters of a million public sector workers across the UK in striking over pensions and cuts. This was a massive step in fighting back against Government attempts to decimate the welfare state but anti-cuts activists, public sector workers and service users are calling for further, more widespread action.

Union branches acrosss the country, including Unison's 9,000 strong Edinburgh branch, have voted to call on the TUC to coordinate a general strike. It looks like there is a possibility of mass joint strike action taking place in October if union leaders respond to the calls of their membership and those that use public services.

But we can't wait for union officials to start action – we have to make links now between workers & service users. People from different workplaces could meet to discuss their struggles, to find ways to support each other. No group and no person should be left to struggle alone. On 30 June claimants from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty joined the Jobcentre workers picket at High Riggs, and Black Triangle disability rights group members joined the pickets at the Scottish Government.

The Collapse of Southern Cross
Privatisation means elderly care comes a poor second to profits for hedge fund speculators. Edinburgh Support Workers’ Action Network (SWAN) looks at the disastrous effects of privatisation on the care of our elderly and speaks to a worker at a Southern Cross home in Edinburgh.

When the UK's biggest private care home provider Southern Cross announced one Monday that it could no longer afford to pay rent for its care homes and would cease operations it blamed falling local authority funding and rising rent prices. However, a closer look at the causes demonstrates the danger of allowing private companies to run essential public services.

Southern Cross, whose 750 care homes receive substantial funding from the tax payer, was purchased by US private-equity firm Blackstone in 2004. Blackstone floated the company on the stock market, making £630_million in the process, and proceeded to strip its most profitable assets, making another £1_billion by selling off property belonging to the company. Southern Cross then continued to provide services by renting the care homes it previously owned. Blackstone sold its shares in Southern Cross in 2008 making a final £1 billion in profit and leaving behind a company crippled by the rising cost of rents.

Now Southern Cross has announced it cannot afford to pay its rent bill and the company will fold. A few private investors have made billions, while the 31,000 elderly residents of Southern Cross' care homes face an uncertain future.

Very Enterprising, Very Corrupt
The Council have yet to decide on the privatisation of services, they say. Why then did a BT Telecom engineer turn up at the Craigmillar cleansing/ refuse collection depot on 11 August to install a new phone line for the private company Enterprise? The very same company who are bidding for the Environmental Services contract. The manager sent the engineer packing, explaining the decision on privatisation had not yet been made.
But who from the Council authorised this?