Binmen and street cleaners are to go on strike over the Brighton Pride weekend at the start of August.
The GMB union has given formal notice to Brighton and Hove City Council of its intention to strike, with the first day of action planned for Monday 29 July.
An overtime ban will run through to Monday 5 August and workers will go on full strike for four days from Friday 2 August to Monday 5 August inclusive.
Vehicle workshop and maintenance staff at Cityclean, the council’s rubbish and recycling service, will also go on strike on Tuesday 30 July and Thursday 1 August.
The row between the council and the GMB involves union rep Dave Russell.
The council are concerned that if Mr Russell works at the Cityclean depot in Hollingdean, then the holder of the council’s operator licence – Andy Pumphrey – will walk out of his job.
This would meant that the council would be unable to send out its bin lorry fleet.
But the GMB wants staff to be represented at their place of work by the union rep of their choice – and they elected Mr Russell.
Talks have been held between the two sides with mediation by ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
The union said that talks with the council had reached a deadlock over “anti-trade union behaviour”.
The council said: “We’re very disappointed that the GMB has decided to issue dates for industrial action in two weeks’ time and running through August, including Pride weekend.
“We’re still fully committed to resolving any outstanding issues through the ACAS talks to ensure the service we provide for our residents and businesses is maintained and not disrupted.
“During talks between the council, the GMB and ACAS there has been clear agreement on most of the issues that the union has concerns about – and another round of talks are due to take place this Thursday.
“We take seriously the allegations of anti-trade union behaviour and are investigating this. We’re also very disappointed that trust between the council and GMB has broken down but we’re confident this trust can be rebuilt to the benefit of the service.
“The council has received a number of allegations and counter allegations which need to be investigated and we’ve agreed with the GMB to appoint an independent person from outside of the council to review this.
“The council has clear standards of behaviour to ensuring everyone is treated with dignity and respect at work and it is important that when there are allegations these are investigated appropriately and fairly through our procedures.
“The staff member involved can continue to undertake their role but at a different site to allow a fair investigation to take place. There is no loss of GMB representation for GMB members at the depot and union members have full choice about who represents them.
“We would therefore hope the union still meets on Thursday with ourselves and ACAS and seek to resolve the issue and avoid industrial action.”
GMB Southern said: “It has always been made very clear that GMB members’ red lines on the most serious issues were not on a pick-and-mix basis. They either agreed to all or none.
“GMB have issued what will be the first of a series of ‘industrial action’ notices to Brighton and Hove City Council over the coming weeks as talks over council anti-trade union behaviour reach deadlock.
“GMB have issued the required two weeks’ notices on behalf of the city’s street cleansing, refuse and recycling services.
“Tripartite discussions chaired by ACAS and attended by Brighton and Hove City Council, Labour leader Nancy Platts and Green Party convenor Phélim Mac Cafferty have been unable to reach a solution that all sides could agree to.
“This is after senior council officers including chief exec Geoff Raw and director of finance and resources David Kuenssberg added new additional concerns and issues when a solution looked likely.
“The notices issued to the council, at the sudden conclusion of what has been a difficult process at times, are the first in a series of dates under consideration for the coming weeks and months.
“Further dates will be added over the coming days and weeks leading to possible further disruption of services to the city provided by Cityclean until GMB can be assured that council officers’ continued attacks against both the GMB and its representatives have ceased and that proposals, even if only tentatively agreed, are then not varied or removed from scope.”
Branch secretary Mark Turner said: “It’s been very much a case of one step forward, two steps back by council officers in the meetings facilitated by ACAS.
“Several times we thought that a settlement to the dispute was imminent as we seemed to agree on much more than divided us and that we were at the stage where simply changes to some wording in the working document was the only final stumbling block to avoid.
“We couldn’t have been more wrong as agreements we thought were signed off by all three of the city’s political parties were then revoked by the council officers and further vexatious claims against representatives of the GMB union suddenly appeared, leaving the officers demanding that the GMB rep’s exclusion from the Hollingdean depot continued, even after agreeing that he should return to the workplace.
“It has always been made very clear that, although we could discuss all other issues to seek a consensus and way forward, GMB members’ red lines on the most serious issues were not on a pick-and-mix basis. They either agreed to all or none.
“Those red lines were that their rep must be returned to the depot and that the unfair persecution and anti-trade union behaviour he was subjected to cease, along then with allowing GMB members their statutory right of access to the union representative of their choice at all times should they need to.
“There is a further meeting planned with council officers, councillors and ACAS scheduled for Thursday 18 July and GMB will attend in the spirit of seeking a resolution of avoiding the need for industrial action as we have all along.
“But right now we have no faith and trust in what the council officers say or agree to at the meeting because it seems they then change their mind upon returning to the larger exec team meaning so that we can’t be assured of an agreement ever being reached. But maybe they will prove me wrong!”
GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “GMB members have been more than patient in allowing both Mark Turner and I the chance for the past several weeks to explore and develop through ACAS an acceptable way forward but with the understanding that there were certain issues that were not negotiable beyond a clear and certain time and point.
“Council officers are now saying that can’t happen so regrettably we are forced to action GMB membership’s mandate for industrial action until the chief exec and his team seek to come back to the table and act more honourably in seeking any agreement.
“GMB concerns are that the chief exec is now in his latest U-turn reportedly hiding behind threats by the service’s operating licence holder to walk away from Cityclean if our rep is to be returned to the workplace as the latest rationale for his continued exclusion.
“Of course we accept that it will be very hard for senior council management to deal with such illogical behaviour by those charged to run the service.
“But accepting such immature behaviour from a senior manager, similar to a child threatening to take his ball home if he doesn’t get his way in the game, is a totally unfair rationale to further act against the GMB union and its representatives.
“We expect the chief exec at the very least to have a contingency plan in place for the next managerial tantrum at the depot.
“GMB have had serious trust issues and concerns around the chief exec Geoff Raw and his involvement, ability and honesty in looking to resolve matters from the start.
“As it was the chief exec who made an approach to us through a third party looking to arrange a potential deal outside of council procedures earlier in the dispute, where the chief exec offered to install the director of finance and resources as a replacement chair of a potential disciplinary hearing for a GMB rep, and give us the outcome of that hearing in advance as one of no case to answer.
“But only subject to the GMB agreeing that the rep concerned then worked in future from the GMB office representing members within the council but that he had no further dealings with the Cityclean workplace or workforce directly.
“The offer was both polity and immediately declined.
“This dispute has opened my eyes about real nature of the man at the head of the paid service within Brighton council and the potential dilemmas ahead for anyone having to speak or work with such a moralistic professing dodgy dealer.
“GMB remain very happy to meet in further meetings chaired by ACAS, but we would like assurances that it is those meetings at which decision and agreements on the dispute are discussed and made and then not later find them superseded by a secret cabal of council management independently altering outcomes.”
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