Labour tee up bin strike talks but drivers stay out on strike

Posted On 06 Oct 2021 at 6:23 pm

Labour councillors stepped into the dispute between Brighton and Hove City Council and striking bin lorry drivers, setting up a meeting between unions and council chiefs today (Wednesday 6 October).

But despite a round of talks which ended a short while ago, the strike at the council’s Cityclean depot will continue.

Some had hoped that the opposition party’s intervention could see rubbish and recycling lorries back on the road in time for the Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday (10 October).

Instead, one of those close to the talks said that route was “likely to be lined with bin bags”.

Officials from the GMB plan to meet the striking drivers tomorrow to give them an update but one said: “There have been talks but there is nothing concrete on the table.”

GMB organiser Gary Palmer said: “There are talks going on but we are nowhere near a settlement.”

Two Green councillors, Amy Heley and Jamie Lloyd, attended the meeting with the GMB union today when they were joined by senior council officials.

Last night Labour said that Councillor John Allcock, co-leader of the opposition, and Councillor Gary Wilkinson, who speaks for Labour on the environment, had met GMB officials to hear their concerns.

Labour said: “(They) wrote to the leader of the council, the chief executive and the GMB branch secretary to facilitate a meeting between both parties in order to find a swift resolution for residents.

“Following those actions, and as a direct result of Labour’s intervention and discussions, the GMB have put another offer to the chief executive and leader of the council to meet (to) seek a resolution to this dispute.

“Labour urge the council to take the GMB up on this offer as communication and negotiation are how industrial disputes are resolved.”

Councillor Allcock said last night: “I’m pleased our interventions have paved the way for constructive talks and hopefully an end to strike action.

“I urge the leader of the council and the chief executive to meet with the GMB, get round the table and communicate to find a way forward that benefits our residents.

“Burying heads in the sand helps nobody. We need the council to tackle this crisis directly and the next step in doing that involves attending the meeting with GMB that we have facilitated.”

Cityclean bin lorry drivers on the picket line outside the Hollingdean depot – Picture from the GMB

The council said that while the usual bin rounds for rubbish and recycling could not take place, the council’s two tips – off Old Shoreham Road, Hove, and in Whitehawk – were still open as normal.

The strike follows what the GMB said were “failures to follow council policies and procedures” that had previously been agreed with drivers and their union.

The GMB said that there had been “unilateral decision-making around variations of duties, crew changes, planning for collecting of dropped work and the accumulating resultant effect and toll on driver’s health and wellbeing”.

Council bosses are understood to have been asking crews to work flexibly to minimise disruption to rubbish and recycling collections when staff were off sick or self-isolating as a result of the coronavirus rules.

Councillor John Allcock

The council said: “Our aim is to always provide the best service possible to our residents and we thank all Cityclean staff who have continued to work incredibly hard throughout covid.

“We have seen high levels of staff illness in part due to the pandemic which has included unavoidable covid-related illnesses and others having to self-isolate as well as annual leave and other sickness.

“The situation has been made worse by the national HGV driver shortage which has affected our ability to employ new staff or agency workers.

“These staff shortages have meant Cityclean managers at times asking staff to work flexibly which has meant moving a driver or operative to another crew or collection round.

“We believe these changes have always been made in a fair and open way while taking into consideration the staff involved, including a number of commitments and offers to the GMB and our drivers.

“However, we are always keen to understand and work with GMB and staff to resolve any issues around this they may have.”

The 14-day strike started on Monday (4 October) and if the dispute cannot be settled in the meantime, drivers are due back at work on Monday 18 October.

The law prevents the council from bringing in agency workers in place of the striking drivers, the council said, although there is currently a wider shortage of suitably qualified drivers.

The dispute does not involve street sweepers who are still working.

  1. Left wing Barry Reply

    If only we had Jeremy Cor-bin.
    Bins. Universal credit. Tax rich. Ban statues

  2. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    May I just say that nobody sane in this city, of whatever political hue, can be neutral or even pleased about the bin strike, the build-up of rubbish that will take ages to clear, if it’s ever cleared, plus the parts of the city that thought Cityclean must have been on strike for many weeks before all this. Plus predatory seagulls and rats. In an emergency, which this is, politicians and officials should stick together and sort it!!

    As invisible and very limp Geoff Raw was the official in charge (who knows what he even looks like!), and I use the term ‘official’ very satirically, of the last farcical major bin strike, and then got promoted to CEO for doing much less than nothing at all, except ‘preside’ ineffectually over a crisis, when is somebody (would suggest all political parties gang together on this one) going to fire him??? He does deserve to be fired (without a pay-off) for gross incompetence.

    And, as for invisible McCafferty and mega-mouth ‘I know nothing about anything and have no experience of anything at all’ Heley …

    We all do deserve much better than this debacle – we are paying through the nose for the incompetence and, no doubt, will see another major hike in money for nothing next year. And, in a wake-up call, it would be good if Tory councillors also stood up and spoke – yes, I am talking about you, Joe Miller in particular, who is more interested in being an MP (stroll on, Joe, no chance unless you speak up) and Mary Mears, who bangs on about the War MemoriaL and Old Steine, but those places are not actually in her ward.

  3. Chris Reply

    Most of the people I know, whether current or previous residents of Brighton, just say “what again” if I mention bin strikes. They’ve been happening for many years with no apparent improvement or change in the supposed service. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t seem to make any difference which political party is in office, things just continue as before.

  4. Jon Reply

    The GMB are affiliated with the Labour Party. The Labour party is paid by the GMB. So how can you believe anything Labour Councillors say on the matter .
    Of course they’re going to blame the Greens but will they actually explain any details about the reasons for the strike ? No because they can’t upset the GMB

  5. bradly23 Reply

    Spanish practices dispute, not about wages = or is it? either way, organising a party in a brewery spring to mind

  6. IanB Reply

    I suspect strongly the Labour Party are just playing political games here. Can’t imagine that them trying to get involved in the negotiations, which already have an organised structure, can be helping communications over the dispute.

  7. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    I’ve thought for a while now that they’re trying to brighten up their image after realising that being ‘in bed’ with the Greens was likely to be to their disadvantage come the next council elections. After the Greens were slung out in 2015, given their record in office, we had Labour, who shot themselves in the foot with the anti-semitism business, and now we have the Greens again (by default), and so it goes on. It will be Labour’s turn again next time round, so they’re presumably trying to look responsible and competent by then.

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