Nicola Sturgeon says agency staff will not cover duties of striking bin staff in Glasgow

First Minster Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
First Minster Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Nicola Sturgeon has said agency staff will not “fulfil the regular duties” of striking bin workers in Glasgow, who are taking industrial action during Cop26.

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Glasgow City Council is considering bringing in private contractors to collect rubbish ahead of Bonfire Night but they will not “fulfil the regular duties” of striking bin workers, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Rubbish collectors and street cleaners in Glasgow are taking industrial action during Cop26 over a pay dispute with Cosla, the umbrella body for local authorities.

The GMB union, which has organised the strikes, has accused the council of threatening workers with “anti-trade union laws” and plotting to use agency staff to break the strike action.

Challenged about the claims during First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said they “would be disgraceful if they were happening, but they’re not”.

She said: “The council do have a concern about Bonfire Night posing an additional fire risk if rubbish is not collected.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is shown an overflowing bin by Barry McAreavey as he meets GMB cleansing workers in Glasgow to learn about their dispute with the Scottish Government ahead of Cop26.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is shown an overflowing bin by Barry McAreavey as he meets GMB cleansing workers in Glasgow to learn about their dispute with the Scottish Government ahead of Cop26.

“So what they are considering is cover to mitigate these risks.

“What they are not considering is using contractors to fulfil the regular duties of striking staff.”

Ms Sturgeon said it was “disappointing” that the GMB had decided to take strike action in Glasgow during the 13-day climate summit being hosted by the city, but she added: “I respect the right to do so, but I would urge all parties in Glasgow to quickly find a resolution.”

She was urged to “intervene and provide the leadership that has been sorely lacking” in the dispute, by Scottish Labour MSP for the Glasgow region Paul Sweeney.

Mr Sweeney added: “I think Glasgow City Council threatening to union bust by using anti-trade union laws and bussing in blackleg private contractors to try to break the strike is disgraceful and a paltry short-term fix to this long-running dispute.”

On Wednesday evening, GMB Scotland organiser Keir Greenaway said: “The council has repeatedly threatened our members with anti-union laws, but if their officials had any grounds for pursuing this they would have done so.

“But let’s be clear that if the council are using agency staff to try and break this strike action then they would be the ones breaking the law.

“Our members are striking because they have been paid so poorly and treated so badly for too long, and we have tabled serious proposals to reset industrial relations which the council officials have again rejected.

“But where is Glasgow’s political leadership? The silence is absolutely deafening from the council leader Susan Aitken, and she should either step up or step aside.”