Cop26. Glasgow garbage collectors


The device is proven. Always the same. Hunky-dory. Light. A telephone in video mode activated, a picket line in the background and, on the front of the stage, a man, index finger pointed, bangs with his chin, arms in the air. And a banter that pierces the eardrums and bursts hearts. In ten days, thanks to his small sequences of a few tens of seconds, shot in American plan with a slight diving effect, Chris Mitchell, their megaphone – and what a voice, with this Scottish accent to cut with a knife -, succeeded in putting the garbage collectors in the middle of the mobilizations organized during the COP26 of Glasgow (United Kingdom). The young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, the other “rock star” of the counter-summit, has also ended up relaying the conflict herself on social networks. “Stand with us, not against us! »Claims the host of the GMB union in each of the messages and, more and more, citizens in the Scottish city but also around the world are standing up with them to relay their demands: no justice, neither social nor climate, no peace!

In the face of total wage stagnation for years, the Glasgow garbage collectors had warned, in mid-October, the local authorities who, through the public agency employing local officials (Cosla), notably manage the harvest and the processing. waste: without progress on their demand for a substantial increase – many have payslips around 17,000 pounds sterling (20,000 euros) per year, a very low salary in Scotland – they would restart a strike at the start of the COP26. “We have a very clear message for the Scottish government! exclaimed Chris Mitchell on October 20. Pay these heroes a living wage! Because they deserve it! Camaraderie (in French in the text – Editor’s note) and solidarity are only growing. It’s always bigger, bigger and bigger, and we’re not going to back down. And they kept their word. For ten days, garbage has not been collected in Glasgow and, despite this, the strike is reaching new heights of popularity.

To the tune of the electro anthem Freed from Desire

Throughout the week, on the seven or eight pickets in front of the various waste treatment centers, the garbage collectors were visited by the participants in the counter-summit: Indian environmentalists, Canadian nuclear defenders, European trade unionists… Together, they took up the strike chorus at the top of their lungs, to the hijacked tune of the electro anthem Freed from Desire: “The workers are on fire, Cosla should be petrified!” Last weekend, representatives of the tenants union from Govanhill, a district south of Glasgow, also came to show their solidarity. “Beyond the remuneration of workers, as residents, we must see massive investments in our cleaning service, which for years has been understaffed and underfunded,” recalls one of the leaders of the association.

For the Scottish executive and the Glasgow city council, controlled by the left-wing separatists of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the garbage collectors’ strike is at its worst: it spoils the postcard of the COP26 – with the luster already quite faded – , but also the image of a government occupied in fighting against the austerity imposed by the conservatives of Boris Johnson. Worse: the elected SNP have considered, in recent days, to set in motion a Thatcher-style strategy to break the movement: after having encouraged – unsuccessfully – the staff of parks and gardens to “cross the picket line” to pick up the garbage cans, they sought to recruit private personnel for the same purpose. In a statement last Friday, the GMB union called for the immediate resignation of Susan Aitken, the SNP mayor of Glasgow, in the name of “his total abdication in the face of his responsibilities”. Adding: “They have threatened us three times with anti-union laws and now they want to use temp workers to break the movement. The Tory tactics will not work. “

Jeremy Corbyn came to support the strikers

Scottish Labor, for their part, lined up behind the striking garbage collectors, supporting their demand for an annual increase of 2,000 pounds sterling (2,350 euros). This Monday, Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labor leader and figure of the British left, came to support them. Secretary-General of TUC, the sole confederation in the UK, Frances O’Grady also hails the movement: “Climate justice and social justice go hand in hand, but as Glasgow hosts this climate summit, essential workers who clean her are not getting the fair treatment and consideration on the job that they should be receiving. “

For Chris Mitchell, the figure of the struggling garbage collectors, some of whose comrades are considering, half jokers, half serious, to transform the harangues into alarm clock or telephone ringing, the fold is taken. “It’s a question of the environment, our job, we are dealing with recycling and food waste,” he insists. It is unfortunate and even lamentable to have had to endure budget cuts over the past decade, and the past four years have been truly horrible. If you care about the environment you need to invest in public services, but unfortunately Glasgow has only made permanent economies of scale, to the detriment of the common good and the workers. ”

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