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Cleansing staff plan unofficial action over Games leave ban

PREPARATIONS are under way for a wave of unofficial industrial action by hundreds of council staff over payments and compensation for working during the Commonwealth Games.

tactic: Health and safety rules ban the lifting of overflowing bins.
tactic: Health and safety rules ban the lifting of overflowing bins.

In the first clear sign of an ­escalation of the ongoing dispute, about 500 Glasgow City Council cleansing workers are to rigidly adhere to health and safety rules when collecting rubbish.

The tactic, by members of the GMB union, is expected to create a backlog in refuse collections by slowing down the operation.

Leaflets informing the workers of the expectations have been distributed and meetings are planned for cleansing depots on Monday morning before collections start.

It is understood GMB will use the health and safety adherence to test the appetite for a further escalation, rather than risk a poor response in a ballot for formal action.

It follows a meeting between the main trade unions and council officials this week over demands for payments compensating for the cancellation of leave before, during and after the Games.

Meanwhile, Unison is ­consulting with its various affected branches to see how its members want to take forward their demands.

With less than five months until the 12-day event begins on July 23, talks between the unions and the council continue to falter, with the authority adamant it does not have the cash demanded.

It has also claimed it would be out of kilter with other "Games partners", where staff will not get similar deals.

More than 2000 workers are calling for one-off payments of £1500, about £3 million in total, along with the double time for any overtime worked, in compensation for having their leave cancelled.

Some core staff face a block on annual leave over several months because of the event, which will see thousands of athletes and visitors descend on Glasgow.

Unions claim hundreds of staff with children will be unable to take leave during school ­holidays, and are calling for one-off payments of £1500 in compensation.

Of the 2200 staff facing restrictions next year about 1300 are cleansing staff, with environmental health officers to inspect all hotels and food premises for hygiene from May. Unison said trading standards officers would be required to work 14-hour days across 11 venues on 11 days, including two weekends.

The union's Cal Waterson said: "We've instructed our members to stick to the health and safety guidelines, and outlined this in a leaflet to them. There does seem to be an escalation here as the city council throws its dummy out of the pram. But we've made it clear this is not a work-to-rule."

Unison's Brian Smith added: "The council talk about legacy for Glasgow and how it's been embraced by people. But it is leaving its own workers in the cold, expecting them to work harder and faster without appropriate recompense. People are now having to plan around having no summer holidays with their children."

Health and safety expectations on cleansing staff include not lifting overflowing bins, pulling two bins at the same time or crossing roads with them. A council source said: "They use it to slow things down, a kind of unofficial industrial action, but it's really what they should be doing."

A council spokesman said: "We want our workforce to feel the benefit of these additional hours, but we can't force anyone to do overtime. We absolutely support staff in following health and safety guidance, which exists for very good reasons."

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