Edinburgh Council - privatisation decision on knife-edge

As anti privatisation demonstrators packed into the building, City of Edinburgh councillors voted on 27 October to defer a decision on the privatisation of refuse collection and environmental services until November. “We need to be there in even greater numbers next time to make sure the councillors don't gift our services to Enterprise – a notorious company with a track record of mass sackings, health and safety breaches and incompetence” said a demonstrator. The decision day meeting will be held at 10am on thursday 24 November.

The decision to defer came after a dramatic last-minute turnaround by the SNP. Part of the ruling administration, the SNP had been pushing the privatisation plans along with their partners the Liberal Democrats. But on the day SNP leader Steve Cardownie announced they now favoured keeping Environmental Services in-house, and both the Lib Dems and SNP voted together to defer the decision for a month “to allow Councillors more time to access all the information on the subject.”


Despite their avowed preference for the in-house bid, the SNP refused to vote for the Labour-Green amendment to drop the privatisation plans all together. “Is that to give time for another u-turn Stevie?” heckled one demonstrator loudly from the public gallery. Indeed Cardownie showed his true colours by berating the council street cleansing and refuse collection workers for their “intransigence”, insisting there would have to be cuts if Environmental Services was to stay with the Council.

Lib Dem Council leader Jenny Dawe joined in the attack on council workers - workers who have courageously resisted management bullying to oppose massive wage cuts and worse conditions in a struggle that lasted two years.  From her comfy office she condemned the “entrenched position” of the workforce. A refuse collection worker pointed out to Indymedia that he started work before 7am, was working through the Scottish winter in all weathers, often had to work 8 – 10 hours in soaking wet clothes, then had to go home on public transport still soaking wet, while conditions at the depot were primitive.

UNISON leader Peter Hunter – condemned by Edinburgh Muckraker for conspiring to sell-out the workforce – addressed the councillors and indicated he would do his best to get the workers to accept worse conditions. The in-house plan itself envisages over 100 job losses. One worker present stressed: “I've always said that if we beat privatisation then the fight's just beginning.” Cardownie stated he had been holding meetings with Peter Hunter and would shortly be holding meetings with UNITE union leaders.

Following a noisy demo in the square outside the council chambers, delegations from local anti-cuts groups addressed the Council meeting. Greater Leith Against the Cuts joined campaigners from Edinburgh East Save Our Services to denounce the privatisation plans. Campaigners were angry that the majority of them were prevented from entering the public gallery despite there obviously being room. Large numbers of police and a specially hired private security firm were mobilised, and Edinburgh citizens entering to hear what their councillors were deciding on their behalf were subjected to bag and body searches.

“We urge all Edinburgh citizens to attend the meeting on 24 November and be ready to act if the councillors don't throw out the privatisation plans,” a demonstrator told Indymedia.

Edinburgh Muckraker  http://edinburghmuckraker.org.uk/

Report on City of Edinburgh Council site

Edinburgh UNISON

Greater Leith Against the Cuts Facebook

North Edinburgh Fights Back

Indy note: more contributions on this topic welcome, the article can be updated.