Glasgow, Scotland – In Gaelic, the word “Glasgow” translates to “dear green place”. It is a nod to the parks, gardens, and thriving green spaces scattered throughout the city. But according to Chris Mitchell, who has been a garbage collector there for more than two decades, the only thing thriving in Glasgow these days is a “mountain of rubbish”.
While diplomats at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow this week called for the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and inclusive consumption to protect the planet, the reality of today’s consumer society was viewed dimly from the conference entrance.
Outside the gleaming center of Scotland’s largest city, trash cans and containers are overflowing. The number of rats in the city is up: Four garbage workers have been hospitalized due to rodent attacks in the past five months. Trash litter the streets.
Mitchell, a senior official with GMB Scotland, which represents 1,000 garbage collectors in the city, among other workers, said they staged an eight-day strike that ended on Monday because they were tired of poor working conditions, and disrespect on their part. Low pay and management. This claim has been echoed across the UK, US and other parts of the world: the essential workers who have burdened communities during the worst moments of the pandemic say they will no longer tolerate being exploited and being paid so little.
We have kept people safe. We take care of the most vulnerable. We protect the elderly,” said Mitchell, 45, who started working as a garbage collector when he was 16. Mitchell welcomed the nocturnal clap dedicated to essential workers during the pandemic. But now that coronavirus cases have fallen, he feels the government has “abandoned the low-wage workers who saved this nation”.
In some parts of the city, garbage is now collected only once every three weeks. About a year ago, it was collected once every two weeks. This means that garbage collectors, many of whom earn less than £20,000 ($27,000) a year, have to lift and lower the heavy loads.
In addition to less frequent collections, the volume of litter per household has increased in the past two years. It’s a reflection of increased takeout and delivery spending from online shopping and ordering, according to Mitchell.
“The pandemic has caused waste and more waste,” he said.
The city with a population of about 635,000 people asked its residents Reduce your waste to help protect the environmentBut garbage collectors like 26-year-old Jack McGowan say reducing collections isn’t an effective way to do it.
“Landfills are always like this,” he said on Wednesday, pointing to several overflowing trash containers behind an apartment complex in Scottston, an area west of Glasgow city centre. “We need to be paid better. And also respect.”
McGowan said she lives with her mother because she cannot pay a mortgage on her £19,000 annual salary.
In addition, he confirmed that he actually saw four mice jumping out of trash cans that morning.
Glasgow encourages recycling initiatives and programs to be more environmentally friendly. But McGowan said he sees every day people throwing non-recyclable trash into recycling bins.
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Garbage collectors said they would likely strike again in the lead-up to Christmas if they did not receive wage increases. Through a statement, Glasgow City Council said its supreme authority had already had extensive discussions with the union and that “the door remains open to all fellow union members”.
City Council spokeswoman Fiona Ross said she could not provide many details because talks were still ongoing.
Meanwhile, delegates at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow said they were making some progress toward an agreement to avert catastrophic levels of climate change.
On Wednesday, the United States and China issued a joint statement pledging to do more to cut emissions this decade, in which China pledged for the first time to tackle methane emissions. Meanwhile, the UN climate agency published a draft agreement that urged countries to “accelerate the phase-out” of greenhouse gas emissions.
But outside the climate talks, there is growing frustration about the disconnect between decision makers and those most affected by climate change. There have been daily protests organized by young activists, who claim that promises made by states to achieve the goals several decades from now are not enough.
“No one really wants to pay the cost of preventing climate change today,” said Sayantan Ghosal, professor of economics at the University of Glasgow School of Business. “They’re willing to do it tomorrow, but not today.”
There was also a gulf between world leaders and corporate executives who spoke this week of the urgent need for the transition to clean energy, and on the other hand, the working class that will be affected the most by growing. The costs associated with this transition.
Many of the lowest-paid workers in society, including garbage collectors, care more about rising food, rent, and electricity prices than they do about rising temperatures. They generally don’t have the flexibility to spend more on more sustainable food and clothing.
As the US economy recovers, after a halt during the pandemic, people are leaving their jobs in record numbers, according to data from the US Department of Labor. There are five million fewer workers than before the pandemic began, and employers have struggled to find enough health care workers, waiters, truck drivers and butchers.
This gave the employees new influence and authority.
The number of striking workers in the United States rose to more than 25,000 in October, up from an average of about 10,000 in the previous three months, according to data compiled by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
The shortage has caused instability in Britain, which is struggling to find workers to replace the thousands of European workers who have left in the five years since the country voted to leave the European Union.
Mitchell, the union leader, said 20 drivers have left the garbage collection team in recent weeks to go to work as truck drivers in higher-paying jobs.
Union spokesman Peter Welch said Scotland needed to invest in workers who would help in the transition to a greener economy.
“I think there are huge challenges that politicians are not even beginning to understand,” he said.
Jenny Gross is a public affairs reporter. Prior to joining The Times, he covered British politics for the Wall Street Journal. Tweet embed
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