Greens’ warning to Labour over bin strikes

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell is responsible for environment, transport and sustainability on the council
Labour councillor Gill Mitchell is responsible for environment, transport and sustainability on the council

The union for refuse workers in Brighton and Hove met with council officials this week over under-staffing in Cityclean.

And Green councillors have warned the Labour-led council to move quickly to avert a ‘looming bin strike’.

The GMB union told council officials on Monday (August 21) that it must employ ten additional staff so that the refuse collection service can run properly.

Before Monday’s meeting Mark Turner, GMB branch secretary for Brighton and Hove, said: “Three bin lorries every day has been sitting in the depot because of understaffing. Refuse and recycling workers have been used to staff the council’s new commercial and green waste venture, stopping bins being collected and streets being cleaned.

"The effect has been increased workloads for staff, as they pick up bins not collected and rubbish not swept the next day.”

The GMB said talks had been ‘positive’ and it was waiting for further proposals before consulting its members on the next steps.

Cllr Leo Littman, Green spokesperson for environment, said: “It’s evident that Cityclean is desperately under-resourced. It is unacceptable that lorries are sitting idle because there are too few staff to drive them, while rubbish piles up in the streets. Some residents have been waiting up to three weeks for collections, with no end in sight. It’s disappointing because the current Labour-run council inherited good staffing levels in Cityclean from the Greens.

“When a bin strike happened under the Greens, it was because of pay inequality, which we sorted once and for all. This time round, a strike will be down to sheer incompetence, and we call on the Labour council to work with GMB to reach a successful outcome to this dispute before things get even worse.”

Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of environment committee, said: “I have listened carefully to the concerns raised by the GMB union and subsequent discussions arranged with council officers have gone very well.

“It is obviously important that despite continuing, harsh government cuts to our budgets, we are able to protect front line services, especially when those services are expanding to meet increased demand.”