Brighton and Hove bin strike update: Disappointment from council and union leaders as bin dispute talks come to abrupt end

Brighton and Hove's bin strike has been going on for one week today (Tuesday, October 12) but talks to resolve the dispute came to a halt as union leaders walked out.

Up to 54 HGV drivers at the council’s refuse and recycling service Cityclean started the first two-week strike last Tuesday (October 5). The GMB union said the strike was voted for due to an ongoing dispute with the council over 'enforced driver removals, changes of duties, crew variations and alterations in plans around the collection of dropped work'.

Rubbish has been piling up all over the city but talks to resolve the dispute have failed to put a halt to the strike.

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The city council said at a meeting held yesterday (Monday) it attempted to put forward a revised and second offer to the GMB union which sought to resolve the current dispute so waste and recycling collection services can resume in the city.

Rubbish piling up in Brighton city centre. Picture taken today (Tuesday) by Eddie Mitchell

The council said the GMB left the meeting prior to hearing the full details of this second ‘significant’ offer.

Yesterday (Monday), councillor Hannah Clare, Deputy Leader of the council said: “Today we once again met with the GMB, to put a further, additional formal offer to them to resolve the dispute, this time involving increased pay.

“It’s our view that while pay was not on the original ballot, this increased pay offer is a positive attempt to recognise the hard work of not just city clean staff – but all staff working across the council.

“We’re disappointed that the GMB walked out of the room before discussing this offer with us. There are long term issues with the City Clean service that we’re keen to resolve, and we believe that discussion is crucial. Only by staying around the table can a good outcome can be reached, both for staff and for residents of our city.

Sackville Road in Hove

“We are really keen to keep discussing this latest offer with the GMB and hope they will reconsider their walk-out today and resume talks. Our door remains open to talk any of this through with GMB reps.”

Union says council proposal had changed

The GMB Union said the walk-out was due to an 'about turn' and 'retraction of certain positional assurances by the council team'.

The union said a meeting on Friday had left them with the impression 'we had made good progress in moving towards a resolution and halting strike action'. But, when the meeting commenced, the union said it was 'surprised to hear that in areas where we had believed an understanding in principle was in place, that in fact it was the case that the proposal from the council had changed, and look very different one than expected and previously discussed'.

Mark Turner GMB B50 Branch sec said: "Not sure what has happened over the weekend but, that’s some turnaround. How they can then claim to be shocked when we just walked out, is unbelievable."

Gary Palmer GMB Regional Organiser said: "It so disappointing as Friday’s meeting had left us with the impression that we had made good progress in moving towards a resolution and halting strike action, but today (Monday) has seen a clear about turn and retraction of certain positional assurances by the council’s team.

"How on earth did they think that they could dress up today’s meeting as anything other than a slap in the face for our members?

"Not only do we now expect our members to carry on and possibly escalate their strike action, but I would expect our membership in additional areas within Cityclean to also demand our moving towards their own industrial ballot process in response to the council’s step back from a settlement.

"We are of course ready to talk but the council are clearly not yet adversely worried about the state of the city, when they are we’ll be here waiting."

What next

Speaking today about the next steps a council spokesperson said: "It’s disappointing that this offer has been turned down today. It was a significant and generous offer which would benefit not just staff in the Cityclean service, but also staff across the whole council.

“We urge the GMB to review the offer formally submitted to them in writing and come back to the table to discuss with us.”

The council said if agreement cannot be reached, all resolution options including the resolution proposal from the GMB will be tabled in a report to go to a P&R Urgency Sub-Committee meeting to be decided on by councillors.

This is meeting is expected to take place this week.

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