Sussex binman speaks out amid GMB Union strike warning - ‘Morale is at rock bottom’

A Sussex dustman has said morale among staff is at ‘rock bottom’ amid a dispute over pay and conditions which could lead to strike action.

Refuse collectors are set to vote on industrial action after new strike dates were announced in Sussex by GMB Union. 

According to one Worthing dustman, the situation is worse than he has ever experienced after five years in the job.

The HGV refuse driver, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “Morale is at rock bottom.

GMB refuse collectors in Brighton successfully won improved pay, terms and conditions after a long-running strike at the end of last year. Photo: Eddie Mitchell

“We have been balloted. It’s down to wages, as well as the job itself and how hard it is getting. 

“It’s also how little respect we get from management and some of the public.”

The binman said there is a great deal of concern over the terms and conditions of employment and ‘how they treat you in the office’.

“During lockdown, we were God’s gift,” added. “Now, we are just a pain in the backside if we are blocking the road.”

With a bin strike in Eastbourne ‘set to spread across Sussex’, GMB Union has launched a consultative ballot for drivers in Adur and Worthing. 

“Adur and Worthing Council would do well to listen to the concerns of our members, rather than fight the inevitable like neighbouring Eastbourne Council,” read a statement from Mark Turner, GMB branch secretary.

He added: “Refuse collectors across the South Coast feel angry and unappreciated. 

“They do a dirty and difficult job and should get the respect and pay they deserve — that’s all GMB members are asking for.

“No one seems to notice refuse collectors until they find their bins unemptied and the streets strewn with rubbish. Unfortunately, that’s what is about to happen.”  

Further strike dates have now been announced from January 14 to 28, which will see up to 50,000 household affected. 

A consultative ballot for refuse collectors in Adur and Worthing will close next Wednesday (January 19). 

GMB refuse collectors in Brighton successfully won improved pay, terms and conditions after a long-running strike at the end of last year.

Adur and Worthing Councils arranged a meeting with GMB on Tuesday to ‘discover for the first time’ what issues it had to raise.

After the meeting, a council spokesperson said: “We welcomed the opportunity to discuss with the GMB their issues surrounding our waste and recycling services because we are committed to a thorough review of operations post pandemic and into the future.

“This review began in October and is ongoing. All views are welcome

“We were unable to ascertain much detail as to the exact nature of the complaints but we were pleased that, in almost all cases, the headline issues GMB representatives raised are already within the scope of the review we are conducting at present.

“It is important to point out that the GMB is not the recognised union within the service.

“This is UNISON and we are in full dialogue with their representatives concerning the review and have committed to reporting back on many concerns surrounding terms and conditions by the end of February.

“This has already seen an uplift in HGV drivers’ rates of pay in recognition of current market conditions and the need to deliver a first class service.

“The councils are rightly proud of the service provided by our teams and crews who during the pandemic did not miss a collection.

“It is our hope that we can conduct this review in a spirit of cooperation, finding as many solutions as possible to reflect the hard work of our staff but also protect the excellent service they provide to residents.”

The council previously said it ‘applauded the tremendous work’, undertaken by teams during the pandemic, who ‘did not miss a collection round’.

It also recognised that, ‘in some areas’, terms and conditions of employment ‘may need reviewing as we look to the future’.