Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 17:55 UK

Private firm begins emptying bins

Overflowing bins in Edinburgh (Pic: David Miller)
The dispute has left many bins in the capital overflowing

A private firm has started emptying bins, collecting refuse and cleaning streets in Edinburgh, the city council has confirmed.

Council refuse workers are currently taking part in an unofficial industrial dispute, and are being balloted over strike action.

The council said a team of more than 20 private contract staff begin night shift working on Wednesday.

It also said extra resources would be deployed during the Edinburgh Festival.

Earlier this week, council staff who normally work in trade waste and recycling were redeployed to help clear the backlog of household waste which has resulted from the industrial action.

A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said that during the festival period a private contractor would assume responsibility for cleaning the heart of the city centre, allowing council staff to concentrate on other areas.

It is still my hope that we will be able to achieve a resolution to the current situation that will see our staff back working normally
Jenny Dawe
Council leader

The spokesman added: "One team will start work later this week to deal with particular problem areas across the city. This team will operate two shifts a day and, from Monday 3 August, will concentrate on communal bins that have not been emptied.

"This week five extra crews will start carrying out household waste collections and will be joined by a further five new crews next week.

"Forty temporary refuse collectors are being recruited to help get the city back to normal."

Council Leader Jenny Dawe said: "It is still my hope that we will be able to achieve a resolution to the current situation that will see our staff back working normally.

"However, residents and visitors should not have to put up with unacceptable cleanliness standards. That is why we have put in place a range of contingency arrangements to tackle the backlog in refuse collection and street cleaning.

"In talks with the unions tomorrow I will be reiterating that we want to work with them to ensure that all our employees have all the necessary facts and figures. It is essential that they understand that we have plans to avoid the substantial reductions in pay that are being reported in the media."

Refuse collectors fear a new pay system could see their wages cut from £18,000 to about £12,000. They are already working-to-rule. The Unite union is balloting its members for a strike.



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