Brighton Council holds crisis talks with refuse workers as Doncaster workers plan walk out

GMB is to meet with senior staff at Brighton and Hove City Council to discuss staffing and funding issues in the face of complaints from residents over missed waste collections and refuse piling up in the streets, while in Doncaster refuse workers members of the union Unite will stage two five-day walkouts as part of its dispute with SUEZ over pay.

Brighton showdown talks

Top of GMB’s agenda for talks with council chiefs is the increased workload for binmen as employees have been redirected to the council’s new commercial and green waste venture, leaving remaining employees to pick up uncollected bins and uncleared rubbish.

Brighton Council holds crisis talks with refuse workers as Doncaster workers plan walk out
GMB are calling for ten more staff for the council’s Cityclean service so that it can run properly, while the council contends that the problems with the service derive from it being peak time and disruption caused by staff on annual leave and high levels of sickness.

The GMB union will meet with Brighton and Hove City Council Chief Executive Geoff Raw today (21 August) in an attempt to defuse the situation and avoid industrial action.

GMB branch secretary for Brighton and Hove Mark Turner, who has previously stated that he is keen to avoid a bin strike, said: "We are meeting with the city council to will increased staffing levels. Three bin lorries every day have been sitting in the depot because of understaffing.

“Refuse and recycling workers have been used to staff the council’s new commercial and green waste venture, stopping bins being collected and streets being cleaned. The effect has been increased workloads for staff, as they pick up bins not collected and rubbish not swept the next day.

“GMB is calling for the city council to employ ten more staff so the service can run properly. Hopefully by the end of Monday we will have come to a resolution, but the ball is in their court. If not then our members will decide our next steps."

Cllr Gill Mitchell of the city’s environment committee told The Argus: “We have experienced service problems over the last few weeks and I apologise to those residents that have been affected.

“Cityclean is a service that is expanding and we need to ensure that numbers of staff keep up with the pace of these chances. As part of this the views of the Cityclean crews working on the ground are vital. We are listening to their concerns and are working together to reach a solution to continue the delivery of a high standard service.”

Doncaster strikes expected

Brighton and Hove council will be especially keen to head off any threat of strikes following recent disputes between refuse collection staff and local authorities.

Refuse workers in Doncaster are expected to stage two five-day walkouts in August and September over a pay dispute with waste management company SUEZ, which runs Doncaster Council’s waste management services.

The strikes, planned by refuse workers who are members of the union Unite, are planned for 23 August and 2 September in response to claims that SUEZ offered workers a two per cent pay rise, but only if guaranteed overtime was removed – a move which would see most workers receive no wage increase. It was also reported that SUEZ was planning job cuts, with the company subsequently announcing that it was looking at making over 100 workers redundant by October.

While representatives for Unite stated that the proposed strike action was being taken as a last resort, and even accused SUEZ of trying to unlawfully undermine strike action by advertising for agency refuse workers to cross the picket line (an accusation that SUEZ strongly denies), management at SUEZ pointed to what it calls a ‘significant’ pay award to Unite members in December 2016 and branded current demands as ‘unrealistic’.

The first strike is scheduled to begin on Wednesday (23 August) until Sunday (27 August). A second is then expected to take place between Saturday 2 September and Wednesday 6 September.

Meanwhile, council members in Birmingham will be breathing a sigh of relief as the city’s long-running dispute with refuse workers belonging to Unite over planned redundancies and accusations of financial mismanagement appears to be drawing to a close after the union announced it would be suspending industrial action last week (16 August).

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