Eastbourne bin strike: Union representatives stop HGVs getting out of depot for collections
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This morning (Friday, January 7) strikes continued with union representatives standing outside the Courtlands Road depot from 5.30am and stopping HGVs from leaving to carry out the jobs of striking drivers who were also gathered at the protest.
Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said, “We’re here today on the second day of the strike because even after yesterday’s meeting they’ve rejected the offer.”
He said the seven per cent increase the council has offered actually equates to around £11.50 per hour, not £12.30 as the council says.
Gary said, “The drivers are simply asking for £13.50. Seven per cent of a very low pay scale is seven per cent of nothing. We’re not interested in the percentage, we want £13.50 which is a good going rate for the drivers here.
“It’s also similar to the drivers in Lewes. It’s only right and fair that they should be getting similar pay for the same job.
“Management have tried to get out this morning, we’ve stood in the road and stopped that and the reason we’re doing that is because the man who was trying to drive the vehicle is trying to do the job of a striking HGV driver. He’s a supervisor, he doesn’t do this job normally. We’re not preventing him from doing his job, what we are preventing him from doing is the job of a striking HGV driver because that’s wrong.
“We’re not going to allow any drivers to go out and do the job of striking HGV drivers - it’s breaking the strike if they go out. They’d rather break the strike than deal with the strike.”
Strikers will be back out on Monday (January 10), and then again on Friday (January 14) for a period of six days, Gary said.
He also said they will be issuing further strike dates today ‘due to the attitude of management trying to break the strike rather than sit down and deal with it’.
Patrick Sweeny, HGV driver and GMB Union rep for South East Environment Services Ltd (SEESL), said the problems started when a proposal was put to management three months ago to look at the wages and welfare facilities – something he said was ignored.
Patrick said, “We’ve been in meetings with the council since which have all been non-constructive and that’s why we’re here today. We’re trying to prove our point that what we’re looking for is a reasonable wage and workplace facilities.
“They were trying to take out drivers and it’s not their normal job, it’s replacing a striking driver. Nothing has gone out today and that’s the way it should be.
“£13.50 is what we’re asking for, that’s not huge. What we’re on is not far above minimum wage. Lewes drivers are paid much more. Give us a reasonable living wage. £13.50 is a reasonable wage. £13.50 is about 20-25 per cent. We don’t think that is negotiable, it’s not a vast amount of money.
“I think that is a good enough wage to get us back at work. Give us what we’re due. This will keep going until we get to £13.50. We are prepared to sit down with the council whenever to negotiate.” At around 8.45am the police turned up to the protest but Patrick said they’ve been ‘no problem at all’.
He said, “They know we’re not breaking the law. We’re quiet and not causing any trouble.”
A spokesperson for Eastbourne Borough Council said, “This morning a group of GMB Union representatives from outside Eastbourne blockaded our Courtlands Road depot to stop our vehicles and staff from collecting refuse in the town.
“In a clear breach of the regulations governing lawful picketing, the eight GMB Union representatives stood in front of the lorries as they tried to leave the depot.
“It should be noted that the action by the GMB Union today follows a seven per cent pay rise offer made this week. The GMB Union is demanding 25 per cent.
“There are just 19 staff on strike out of a workforce of 88. Our staff turned up for work, but the GMB Union stopped them. Contrary to any suggestion otherwise, the drivers today are fully qualified and authorised to drive the waste collection vehicles.
“We are liaising with Sussex Police and can assure our residents we are doing everything possible to collect the refuse and bring an end to this dispute.
“When the council took the service over in 2019 all staff received a four per cent increase in pay. In 2020 pay was increased again, this time by 2.75 per cent. Additionally, there is a national pay award negotiation underway and the current offer is 1.75 per cent. Annual leave was also increased to 25 days for all staff. Previously, many staff only received 20 days holiday.
“With the above in mind, we believe this latest offer of a seven per cent increase for drivers and three per cent for all other SEESL staff is very generous. We are still waiting to hear if it has been accepted.”