BINMEN in Glasgow who are struggling to make ends meet are considering giving up their jobs and becoming unemployed, it has been told. 

Cleansing workers say that they will be better off on Universal Credit, rather than working for Glasgow City Council

The workforce argues that their wage does not reflect rising inflation and that they are left with only £300 “to put bread on the table for four weeks” after living costs are deducted. 

Glasgow Times:

Gary Raine, who has worked in cleansing for 19 years, is among the workers who are struggling to cope with the cost of a living crisis.

He said: “If we don’t get a decent pay rise this year, we will seriously have to look at getting second jobs. I certainly will, anyway.

“We know that we would get taxed 50% if we do, but it’s a battle of two evils – do we get another job or sit in the cold and not eat? 

“There are even some workers thinking about going unemployed because they would be better off and get their rent covered, which is terrible in this day and age.”

In October, the binmen were offered a one-year pay rise of 4.7% for the lowest-paid council employees as part of a £1062 increase for those earning below £25,000. 

At the time of this deal, the inflation rate was much lower than it is now, sitting at1.5%. Historically, annual pay deals have all been above inflation during the period they are made. 

But, due to rising costs, a survey carried out by the GMB - a union that represents the binmen - found that the workers were only benefiting from an additional £40 per month.

They say that some are even turning to foodbanks to feed their families. 

The questionnaire considered rent costs, council tax and power bills. The union says the estimations did not include mobile phone bills, house insurance, bus fares, debt management and others. 

Gary added: “The last pay rise didn’t even scratch the surface – it has tallied to an extra £40 a month after the survey showed living expenses of the average worker.

“I know it isn’t just our workforce that are needing to go to foodbanks now, it is deplorable.”

Glasgow Times:

The binmen say they want a pay rise that reflects the level of risk that is faced when they are carrying out their duties.

“The main problem the workforce faces is that these guys are on the frontline – we are being overlooked with disdain, they don’t seem to care about us”, Gary said.

“They don’t care about the workforce below them. We deal with rats on a daily basis and sorting spillages, coming into umpteen diseases. 

“Nobody wants to go on strike but we are really struggling – a lot are worse off than me and have big families to feed.

“We’re only 30 pence better off than a supermarket worker that collects trollies. If you are on £10 an hour, that isn’t a decent living in this day in age.”

Union convenor Chris Mitchell told how the thought it was “shameful” frontline workers are living on the breadline, describing the situation as a “national disgrace”. 

He said: “Workplace poverty is real and it is shameful that workers on the frontline are now on the breadline.

“Having to look for second employment to pay bills and feed their families is a national disgrace.

“Yes, yesterday’s budget was good for the department with 2 million pounds being put into the service to help take pressure off the workforce.

“But for me, it comes too late after years of campaigning. Are they finally admitting Glasgow was in the midst of a waste crisis?”

Glasgow Times:

On Thursday, the local authority announced it will invest £2m on neighbour enhancement and bulk uplift.

It means that 13 new teams will be created within the cleansing department to undertake a rolling programme of neighbourhood deep cleans. 

GMB Scotland Organiser, Sean Baillie, said: “This is as real as it gets - key workers applauded less than two years ago by political leaders now agonising over whether taking on another job or if it will be more worthwhile to go unemployed while inflation sky-rockets on the back of unaffordable energy prices.

“Our members need a substantial increase on the basic rate of their pay to get themselves and their families through the next year and beyond.

“These workers have no more room for manoeuvre. Left unchallenged, thousands of local government workers in Glasgow City Council will go from the frontline of Covid-19 to below the breadline."

Mr Baillie added: “The plans for neighbourhood deep cleans and bulk uplift charges suggest the council is waking up to what workers and the public have known for years, Glasgow has a waste crisis, and it must be confronted.

“Our members in cleansing have campaigned long and hard on the principles that their statutory service needs more investment and job creation, and this is testimony to their relentless efforts.

“What everyone will now be hoping for is that these plans go beyond pre-election politics. This should be a starting point for serious and sustained investment in city cleansing and the people who deliver it.”

Council bosses said that pay awards are negotiated by COSLA. 

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council fully recognises the cost of living crisis facing Glasgow citizens with the new budget setting aside £3m of additional money for a range of initiatives that will support those in poverty.

“The budget also has a focus on supporting the city’s environment with £2m to be allocated annually as part of a post-pandemic clean-up of every neighbourhood in the city.

“A further £1.2m will be invested in fly-tipping enforcement, household waste collections services and other environmental improvements.

“Pay awards are negotiated nationally by COSLA and joint trades unions and awards have been consistently above inflation in recent years for staff at lower grades.

“The trade unions are directly involved in the process for establishing a new pay and grading system for council employees.”

The Glasgow Times approached COSLA for comment.