Binmen and street cleaners in Brighton and Hove walked out this morning (Wednesday 8 May) in an unofficial strike over a cut in pay.
They said that a new pay settlement could lead to pay cuts of up to £4,000 a year among staff when overtime and unsocial hours are taken into account.
And that without staff working overtime, the bin rounds in Brighton and Hove could not be completed.
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “None of our refuse, recycling or street cleansing crews are working today as a result of unofficial industrial action by our workforce in relation to pay negotiations.
“If you are due a refuse or recycling collection today, Wednesday 8 May, it will not take place.
“Around 20,000 households will be affected by this disruption.
“The communal refuse and recycling vehicles are also not operating. We are aware that this is resulting in bins overflowing.
“Given the scale of the disruption we will not be able to collect missed refuse and recycling until your next scheduled collection day.”
The council said that tomorrow (Thursday 9 May) crews were expected to be collecting rubbish and recycling that would normally be collected on a Wednesday. This was in line with the usual post-bank holiday collection schedule.
The council added: “If your collection has been missed we advise you to take your rubbish and recycling to one of our household waste sites in Wilson Avenue in Brighton or Old Shoreham Road in Hove or to wait until your next scheduled collection.
“We are working hard to hire in extra vehicles and agency staff for next week to be able to deal with the extra volume of waste and recycling as a result of the missed collections.
“Due to the disruption we are not taking any reports of missed collections and we will not be able to give you any additional information over the phone.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The council said that it would not be possible to send out temporary replacement crews today, adding: “We employ over 110 staff on refuse and recycling who are out every day making refuse and recycling collections from 20,000 households. They use a fleet of more than 30 specialist HGV vehicles.
“Our staff know their rounds and are trained to drive and operate our refuse and recycling vehicles.
“Because of this specialist knowledge and equipment we cannot simply hire in 90 agency staff and 25 refuse and recycling vehicles to catch up the missed work.
“What we are doing is trying to recruit agency staff and additional vehicles to make sure we collect as much of the extra waste and recycling on the next scheduled collection day.”
The dispute follows the start of consultation on a new pay settlement being introduced by the council.
The council said that it was aimed at modernising pay and allowances to address historic unfairness.
It said: “The aim is to reach agreement on a set of allowances and expenses that is fair, affordable and consistently paid across our workforce.
“Over 8,000 staff work for the authority and the proposed changes will have little impact on around 90 per cent of them.
“Of the 10 per cent impacted, most will see an improvement. There will unfortunately be some staff who do experience a loss and so compensation is a key part of our offer.
“We have been in negotiation with our unions since February over proposals to introduce a single set of allowances and expenses.
“This began at the January meeting of (the Policy and Resources Committee) when the chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council was authorised to begin work on behalf of members.
“We have negotiated with a clear aim of achieving the best and most affordable offer while keeping any losses to a minimum.
“This is a long overdue step towards modernising our council and is not about saving money.
“We have now formally set out in writing our final and best offer. We are entering into a period of formal consultation on the offer with staff for a period of 90 days from 7 May.
“We are hoping to reach a collective agreement on allowances. If this is not possible we will seek individual agreement to the changes to terms and conditions we are proposing, with the payment of compensation, where appropriate.”
Council chief executive Penny Thompson said: “These proposals will have little impact on most of the work force and will mean positive changes for the majority of staff affected.
“For those who will see a loss we have ensured that compensation will be provided.
“The negotiations have never been about making savings. This is however about making sure that we are a council fit for purpose with a fair, consistent and affordable pay and allowances system alongside a clear agenda to provide efficient, quality services which benefit everyone.”
The council said that the proposals were
- The normal working week will be 37 hours
- Hours worked at weekends as part of a normal working week will be paid at half time in addition to the normal hourly rate
- Hours worked after 8pm and before 6am will be paid at a third time in addition to the normal hourly rate
- Hours worked on a bank holiday as part of a normal working week will, in addition to normal pay for the day, be paid at an enhanced rate of double time or at time plus an additional day off
- All authorised overtime, over 37 hours per week, will be paid at a rate of time and a half with overtime on bank holidays paid at double time
- Payment for standby duties will be £26.50 for up to a 24-hour period and payment for a sleep-in duty will be £32.94
- There are no changes to winter gritting standby and duty rates
- All business mileage will be paid at 45p a mile for cars, 24p a mile for motorbikes and 20p a mile for bicycles
- Special schools allowance will continue
- First aid volunteer payments will continue
- Claims for subsistence can be made for overnight stays outside the city
- Market supplements will be paid in accordance with our current policy
- Acting up and ex-gratia payments will be paid in accordance with our current policies