Rubbish and recycling lorry drivers are to hold a strike a ballot in a dispute with Brighton and Hove City Council.
Their union, the GMB, organised a consultative vote, with more than 98 per cent of the HGV licensed drivers supporting a strike ballot.
If they vote to strike, dozens of key crew members at the council’s Cityclean depot in Hollingdean are likely to stop working next month.
The GMB said that the ballot followed the “unfair and discriminatory treatment of drivers by council management”.
The formal strike ballot will be run by Civica, an independent organisation, and is the last key stage legally required before a strike.
The union said that “angry drivers” were considering taking action because of “unilateral daily changes and removal of drivers from longstanding rounds without process, at the whim of uninformed management”.
The GMB said: “The constant one-sided and unagreed imposition of driver removals, variation of duties, crew changes and planning for the collection of dropped work is having a huge and ongoing detrimental effect on drivers’ health and wellbeing within the city’s depot.
“Our members’ clear consultative ballot outcome is a result of that frustration and welfare concern.”
Fifty-three Cityclean drivers were balloted by the GMB and 98.11 per cent – or 52 of them – voted in favour of taking action.
The union said that it would now provide all the legally required notices around industrial ballot process to the council in carrying out the last stages.
The GMB added that if the result supports a strike, there could be late summer disruption to the residential refuse and recycling collections as well as to the commercial waste and other services.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said: “GMB members have throughout the pandemic tried to maintain the best service they could despite severe covid staff shortages and working with a dilapidated and archaic fleet of unsuitable vehicles leaving its mark on the staff who have tried to cope with the fall-out and continue delivering day after day.
“Breakdowns and vehicle fires are commonplace despite the best efforts of the maintenance team.
“At the depot, a large amount of fleet is just so old and worn out that keeping them on the road for any length of time is becoming simply impossible.
“That in turn, as staff return from covid-related issues and annual leave, leads to frustrations for staff trying to keep on top of an already struggling workload.
“Rounds have become disjointed during the pandemic and have fallen so far behind that the experienced loading teams capable of turning things around are finding their drivers removed and replaced with operators with little knowledge of particular rounds and all at the whim of management without following the due processes put in place by the council in the first place, to manage the very service they then disrupt.”
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “Next steps are that we will now need to contact the chief executive at the council Geoff Raw and provide all the necessary information and notifications required by law over the coming week.
“But a late summer of discontent could be on the cards if members vote to strike and discussions fail.
“Hopefully, the déjà vu I’m sure the city as well as ourselves is feeling also includes a solution which prevents the need to take strike action.
“But my concern is that the antequated fleet issues are matched by outdated management unilateral approach methods which our members will simply and rightfully no longer stand for.
“Our members’ health and wellbeing is our number one concern at this point and the council must get on board with that or we are going to enter a dispute which this city could do without right now if they can’t manage to treat GMB members and their employees with a bit more dignity, respect and appreciation for all they do, day in day out, under difficult conditions.”
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