Binmen and street cleaners in Brighton and Hove are being sent ballot papers to vote on whether to go on strike over the summer months.
Their union, the GMB, has given notice to Brighton and Hove City Council of the formal ballot which is being administered by the independent Electoral Reform Society.
About 300 members of staff at Cityclean – the council’s street cleaning, refuse and recycling service based in Hollingdean – will be sent ballot papers.
The union said: “Members’ strong response for action in a recent consultative ballot and no progress from Brighton and Hove City Council management team leaves us with little choice.
“GMB, the union for staff at Brighton and Hove’s Cityclean street cleansing services, have formally provided Brighton and Hove City Council chief exec Geoff Raw with the required legal notices to open an industrial action ballot from Monday 3 June for a two-week period.
“The formal ballot, if supported by members, will see various affirmative industrial actions taken from July onwards, if Geoff Raw and his team don’t go through with the engagement of ACAS (the arbitration and conciliation service) to assist in resolving matters around the recent issues and consequences arising from some anti-trade union management at the Cityclean Hollingdean depot.
“A recent GMB consultative ballot returned a 90.6 per cent turnout and saw members voting 91.8 per cent in favour of supporting their union through affirmative strike action if required, which has now moved a step closer to that action happening over the summer.”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “I’m just not sure that Geoff understands the need for or even wants immediate action on the council’s part to resolve this matter.
“So while the GMB wait for Geoff and his management team to finish deliberating over diary availability, we find ourselves needing to move to protect our members’ position through enacting the formal industrial process, in case BHCC filibustering continues.
“ACAS involvement in conciliation at Cityclean is the key to resolving what is, for us, a serious threat to future industrial relations throughout the whole of the city’s workforce if not challenged now.
“Geoff’s refusal to distance himself from the poor professional practices of a few anti-trade union managers at the depot is disturbing.
“But getting around the table to hear his views on why he thinks it important to back such anti-trade unionists is important to the future success of Cityclean and the services it provides to the city and will be interesting to say the least.”
The GMB’s Sussex branch secretary Mark Turner said that the union needed to be “convinced that discussions, if or when they start, are meaningful and that the chief exec and his team acknowledge that the behaviour of some of the Cityclean management has been anti-trade union when dealing with GMB reps and branch officials either purposefully or in error”.
He added: “Our members might, in view of seeing a declining threat against those that protect and support them in the workplace, accept a recommendation from GMB to scale down, suspend or even halt the threat of action against their employer.
“Otherwise unfortunately there will be disruption to the city’s streets and refuse services throughout July, August and September.”