Talks to avert Brighton and Hove bin strike break down

Posted On 13 Jun 2013 at 1:27 pm

Efforts to avert a strike by binmen in Brighton and Hove have broken down 24 hours before the walkout is due to begin.

The union agreed to come back to the table after a commitment from Brighton and Hove City Council not to use agency staff or contractors during the proposed strike.

The GMB union said: “The commitment was made in an email from council leader Jason Kitcat.”

The email said: “This administration will not sanction the use of agency or contract workers to do the regular work of legitimately striking council staff while those staff are out on strike.

“Accordingly, I am able to announce that all agency workers currently engaged in refuse collection and street cleaning will be withdrawn from service by 10pm on Thursday night (13 June), the day before the strike is due to begin, and agency workers will not be deployed in these areas during the strike week.”

The GMB said: “As a result of this commitment GMB has confirmed that it will engage in negotiations with the council to see if a way forward can be found.”

Councillor Jason Kitcat

Councillor Jason Kitcat

Mark Turner, the GMB branch secretary said: “This is a small first step for the council on the way to resolving this dispute.

“As a result GMB has confirmed that it is willing to attend talks to listen to what the council have to say.

“I will, however, say that there will need to be substantial movement in their position for industrial action to be averted.

“While our members do not take strike action lightly, they cannot be expected to accept these reductions to their take-home pay.

“I would like to thank those councillors in the administration who have supported our members and brought about this decision.”

But by lunchtime today (Thursday 13 June) the GMB said that it was disappointed that nothing new had emerged during the meeting this morning so unfortunately the strike would go ahead tomorrow.

The council said today: “A planned strike announced by the GMB trade union means that there will be no rubbish, recycling or street cleaning services for seven days from Friday 14 June, up to and including Thursday 20 June.

“Until the start of the formal industrial action on Friday 14 June we are working to keep as many of our services running on schedule as possible.

“Unfortunately targeted disruption means that some crews are not collecting from beside bins, roads are being missed and more vehicles are having problems than usual.

“Today, Thursday 13 June, we have three extra crews servicing recycling points across the city and clearing as much refuse as possible off the streets before services are suspended tomorrow.

“If your rubbish and recycling has been missed and you are able to do so, please take it to one of our household waste and recycling centres.”

Council chief executive Penny Thompson said in an open letter to residents yesterday (Wednesday 12 June): “First of all I would like to apologise and say how disappointed I am that we are now facing formal strike action for seven days beginning on Friday 14 June over our proposals to modernise our allowances system.

“We will continue to meet with our unions to encourage discussion to avoid this action.

Penny Thompson

Penny Thompson

“I am pleased that GMB has now agreed to attend a meeting this week. We are continuing to do everything we can to find an agreed settlement.

“This has never been about savings nor specifically CityClean.

“The proposals we have put forward will mean allowances are paid consistently and fairly to everyone across the council.

“At the moment there are variations and we are required by law to make sure the system is fair and transparent.

“While some staff will gain from our proposals, unfortunately some will see a reduction in their allowances so we have offered compensation in these cases.

“If planned industrial action does go ahead on Friday (13 June) it will unfortunately mean more disruption to our rubbish and recycling service.

“I would like to say sorry to residents for the problems we may encounter and we will do all we can to minimise disruption.

“In reality our options are limited. We can’t legally employ agency staff to do the work of striking workers.

“This week we have removed as much rubbish as possible.

“During the strike we would advise residents to put rubbish securely in bins or containers.

“If you can, we would ask for rubbish and recycling to be taken to one of the city’s rubbish and recycling sites in Old Shoreham Road and Wilson Avenue. These will be open for longer during the strike.

“We hope that residents and visitors will assist us by trying to minimise the build up of rubbish in the city.

“I am very sorry that our service is being affected during these talks.

“We will keep you up to date with developments on our website and through our contact centre.

“We’re doing everything we can to find a resolution.”

A senior East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service officer, Mark Matthews, the borough commander for Brighton and Hove, said that fire crews would step in if there was a fire or safety risk.

For example, if fire exits were blocked, crews would remove rubbish, he said.


  1. Hoveman Reply

    If the strike is not resolve after a week break it with contract staff or out it out to tender to a different service provider.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    People concentrate on Jason Kitcat & The Greens but this is surely an even bigger test for BHCC’s new CEO, Penny Thompson.

  3. Uncle Protein Reply

    I am informed by a number of individuals who work at Brighton Council that a vote of no confidence against the Green council will be put forward within the next week.

  4. buller road Reply

    im i on the march today my wage is 16000 ayear take 4 grand of that i cant pay my bills would have to claim more tax credis
    so why cut my wage you do the maths

  5. Arthur Scargill Reply

    Lets get off the backs of the greens they may be naïve but lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater I’d rather have them than the tories which is what we will have if we’re not careful.

    Support the workers ultimately they are fighting for us all.

    If they loose who will be next to see a pay cut? it could be you. Lets all remember the real enemies of this country those who don’t pay their taxes (big and small) they are robbing all of us. If these selfish people paid their dues there would be no need to clobber good honest people with massive pay cuts……..

  6. interesting one Reply

    What is too rarely reported is, as I understand it, that it is not a choice either of the council’s CEO or of the greens to cut pay. It is a legal necessity due to the Equal Pay brought in in the 90s under the Labour government. The Labour council failed to implement it and the Tories tried to do this in 2008 or 2009, however in order to avoid a bin strike then they paid extra allowances to bin workers. I’ve even heard that some people’s wages who were due to go up under equal pay went down in order to afford this rise in allowances. This is now being challenged and if not resolved by the council in time they could face £millions in fines and compensations.

    So if the GMB have been told that the council has more money they can pay and that striking might help them achieve this they have been misled by their union. Even if the council could afford to pay more allowances, they can’t do this legally. However I understand the council is seeking ways to prevent a loss in take home pay which would involve restructuring the service.

    If the GMB don’t enter negotiations with the council what they want within the remit of what is realistically possible it is hard to see how they can achieve what they want.

  7. Arthur Scargill Reply

    Agree with this but the answer is to increase all wages to a decent amount not cut wages for the few who earn a bit more.

    take money off the rich give to the normal honest decent people of this world why should so few have so much when the people that they make their money from are being kicked where it hurts all the time

  8. Neil of Bristol Reply

    I have just spent a great weekend in your wonderful town but my lasting memory will be of the rubbish that has accumulated on the streets. Some paths were blocked by piles of black bags some which had been split open and filth spilling out. I took loads of ‘tourist’ photos and the garbage is in the background of plenty of them. Saturday was so windy that the town was blown over with packaging of alls sorts. Only the seagulls, foxes and rats are benefiting. I can only imagine what tourists from overseas think! Obviously I dont understand the local politics very well but if it were happening in my city I would want the council to resolve the dispute quickly. They created the mess, they should clean it up.

  9. Fed up Reply

    Once again the council and this city are being held to ransom by the bin men, the GMBH and Mr Mark Turner. These guys need to try working in the private sector earning less and losing more. As always I am sure that the Council will back down and give in, then there will be demands for extortionate amounts of money to clear the backlog.

  10. Liz Brynin Reply

    I am a resident of Brighton & Hove and so I am suffering the effects of the bin strike. Rubbish not collected, streets ankle deep in rubbish and paper etc. However, my sympathies lie entirely with the bin men.
    First of all, both our refuse and recycling collections are excellent, and the bin men are efficient and helpful.
    Secondly, I cannot understand why anyone should have to take a pay cut of up to £4,000 pounds on a modest salary such as that earned by bin men. There are fairer ways to even out discrepancies in pay more gradually over time, rather than attempting to do so in one fell swoop.
    Lastly, and I think it is all to easy to forget this, these workers are doing a dirty, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous job, that very few of us would like to do on a daily basis. And this job is vitally necessary for the well-being of us all.
    They deserve all our support and understanding.

  11. Interesting one Reply

    The only thing is that the GMB has been incredibly disingenuous. No-one was standing to lose £4000, the most anyone stood to lose was £1400. This is what council officers said and the GMB weren’t prepared to release their official salaries and what allowances (note allowances, not wages) so it’s only officer information that anyone officially has to go on.

    In fact the council was trying to get them to negotiate on some reorganisation of the service in order to prevent any loss in wages but until recently they refused to discuss / negotiate on this. I’m really pleased this has now changed and that so far things look like they might be resolved.

    I wholeheartedly agree they do a good job and ideally no-one on a below average salary should have their pay reduced in theory but this was a specific legal situation which HAD to be resolved in order to ensure equal pay AND allowances for people doing jobs deemed to be of the same skill level. If it hadn’t been / isn’t resolved I understand this could cost the council millions which would be disastrous for all residents of the city and make a bin strike look trivial.

    By the way I hear teaching assistants still get around £11K and I don’t think there are any affected City Clean workers on less than £15K. There’s still a long way to go in addressing inequalities.

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