A series of bin strikes look increasingly likely before, during and after Brighton Pride as relations between the council and union chiefs teeter on the edge of a breakdown.
Leading councillors met with senior officers at Hove Town Hall this morning (Thursday 11 July) for an update on the crisis at Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service.
At the same time, the GMB union accused Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw and finance director David Kuenssberg of moving the goalposts.
The two sides have met in the presence of ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – twice in the past few months.
They are due to have another meeting with ACAS on Thursday next week (18 July).
But the latest twist in the long-running row revolves around union rep Dave Russell returning to work at the Cityclean in Hollingdean.
The council want him to have restricted access, requiring him to work from the GMB’s offices in Church Road, Hove, rather than Hollingdean.
This would make it harder for him to represent members in any dispute with management at the depot.
The GMB want aggrieved members to be represented by whoever they choose, with Mr Russell and branch secretary Mark Turner among the choices.
This morning Labour and the Greens gave their backing to the council’s executive leadership team in a meeting that lasted two and a half hours.
The meeting, held behind closed doors, was attended by three councillors – Labour council leader Nancy Platts, Green convenor Phélim Mac Cafferty and Conservative deputy leader Lee Wares.
They were joined by the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw, finance chief David Kuenssberg and legal chief Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis.
Also present were Nick Hibberd, the senior officer whose responsibilities include Cityclean, human resources boss Alison McManamon and Rachel Chasseaud, who is in day-to-day charge of the refuse and recycling service.
The GMB were due to be told the outcome of the meeting this afternoon and it was widely expected that the response would be for the union to call a strike.
The union has to give two weeks’ notice to the council to meet its legal duty, with strikes expected around the time of Pride. The main parade and party are due to take place on Saturday 3 August.
The union said: “GMB have and will continue to fully engage with ACAS to seek a resolution despite the fact that senior leadership, including Geoff Raw and David Kuenssberg, have moved the goalposts on several occasions, raising additional issues at the point of signing off an agreement.
“GMB are happy to continue with the process but must make it absolutely clear that we will not tolerate further attacks and unsubstantiated allegations against GMB representatives and the union.
“Should those tactics continue, GMB will unfortunately have no choice but to commence the issuing of strike action notice for dates throughout the remainder of July and early August.”
A strike ballot called by the GMB found overwhelming support for strike action among members.
The ballot was held after a breakdown in relations between union and bosses after work on an audit began.
Separately, since the audit started, two managers have been suspended and arrested. Neither Damian Marmura nor Matt Reid have been charged with any offences.