Binmen in Brighton and Hove moved a step closer to taking strike action today after a series of meetings at their Cityclean depot in Hollingdean.
The breakdown of relations follows the suspension of a number of people at the Cityclean depot, including at least one GMB union rep.
The union said that Brighton and Hove City Council had tried to prevent branch secretary Mark Turner from being able to represent a member.
And it said that the council had compiled an extensive dossier on at least one its 300 members based at the Cityclean depot, with content that suggested an anti-union attitude among some council officers.
Mr Turner said: “We’re a significant step closer to going on strike but it can still be prevented.
“This is not about pay. This is about the workforce and their right to be represented.”
Three meetings, each lasting about 45 minutes, were held at the depot for binmen, street cleaners and recycling crews at 4.45am, 6.45am and 1.45pm today (Thursday 18 April).
Mr Turner said afterwards: “We intend to hold an indicative ballot of our members which will start on Tuesday (23 April) and be completed it by the end of the following week.
“This will indicate whether members would like a formal ballot to be organised.
“The result of the indicative ballot is expected to be announced on Tuesday 7 May.”
It will be one of the first items on the agenda of the council’s new political administration, formed after the local elections on Thursday 2 May.
Mr Turner added: “If – as expected – members are willing, we will move to an independent strike ballot.
“But we would give the council a week to respond to see if the new administration wants to respond in this dispute.”
If members vote in favour of industrial action, it is likely to start in June, possibly coinciding with the GMB annual conference which is being held at the Brighton Centre.
Members from across the country are expected to start arriving on Saturday 8 June, with the conference running from Sunday 9 June to Friday 14 June.