Binmen are set to consider strike option in Wealden

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Unison members will be holding meetings next week to ‘consider their options’ after waste contractor Kier said it will pay binmen their agreed lump sum for working bank holidays.

Unison members at East Sussex Waste Partnership had said this week that they were considering both legal and strike action after claiming waste contractor Kier had ‘reneged on its pay agreement’.

As the largest union for waste and recycling operatives in Wealden, Unison negotiated a 2.2 per cent pay increase with the backdated lump sum to be paid in January 2015.

But this sum was not paid due to an administrative error.

The union said workers were ‘dismayed’ to find they had not been paid the agreed sum.

But on Wednesday evening Unison were in talks with Kier and said the contractor intends to pay per the agreement and hoped to make the payment at the end of the month.

Kelly Hannah-Rogers, area organiser of Unison, claimed Kier could not give an ‘absolute commitment.’

She said: “Workplace meetings will take place at various depots between Wednesday and Friday next week for Unison members to consider their options.”

Speaking to the Express, Kier said workers had received their pay on time and the backdated lump sum had not been paid due to an administrative error. It said it apologised for the inconvenience but this would be paid on the next payment run, which had been confirmed with Unison.

Speaking before the meeting with Kier, Kelly Hannah-Rogers, said: “It really is the last straw for this group of workers.

“This latest decision by Kier follows a catalogue of poor treatment towards long serving staff.

“Since the outsourcing of the waste contract in April 2013, staff have had to chase on basic entitlements such as access to a pay slip and being paid correctly.

“These issues have been raised with Wealden’s elected councillors in the hope that someone will take responsibility for such bad practices in the borough.”

A spokeswoman for Kier said: “Our Kier team at East Sussex Waste Partnership received their normal January pay on time. But unfortunately, due to an administrative error, an additional backdated 2.2 per cent increase was missed on this payment run. We apologise to employees for the unacceptable inconvenience; we anticipate this being paid on the next payment run, and we have confirmed this to Unison, so are surprised to see them making claims about a change of position on pay negotiations for what was very clearly explained as an admin error.”

In 2013 residents experienced around 12 weeks of missed bins collections.

It was after Wealden District Council launched the joint waste scheme with Eastbourne, Hastings and Rother under contractor Kier.

The scheme ran into trouble with some rubbish and recycling not being collected on time.

Wealden said the problems stemmed from binmen trying to familarise themselves with new routes.

The Express was contacted by dozens of people who had months worth of rubbish piling up in their gardens.