South Tyneside Council is preparing for fortnightly industrial action affecting bin collections in January.
No bins will be collected between Tuesday 9 to Friday 12 January inclusive and Tuesday 23 to Friday 26 January inclusive, due to further strike action. GMB union members are striking next week and both GMB and UNITE union members are striking the week of 23 January.
The action affects ALL bin collections. Residents are asked not to present a bin during the two periods of strike action.
As a result of the latest planned actions, the Council is making some changes to scheduled collections in January in a bid to empty bins impacted by repeated rounds of strike action.
There is potentially an eight-week period when one of the bins does not get emptied. With a few changes to collection patterns, the Council is attempting to shorten the length of time between these bin collections to three or four weeks.
Residents are advised to present both their grey household and blue recycling bins on their usual collection days on non-strike weeks and the Council will make every effort to empty at least one of the bins.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said: “We understand that any disruption to waste and recycling services is difficult for both residents and businesses and we appreciate how frustrating and inconvenient it is particularly at this time of year.
“We appreciate that the instruction to present both bins on non-strike days may add some confusion but with current collection patterns we know that some people face an extended period with either their grey household or blue recycling bins not being collected. By making changes to collection patterns, we are working hard to mitigate the impact to some extent. Please present both bins and the crews will collect the correct one.
“This is an extremely challenging time for all; for the workforce, the Council and the communities we serve. The industrial action affects every single resident. As a Council, we are doing everything we can to get as many bins emptied as possible while supporting residents due to the same bin repeatedly hit by the unions’ decision to take strike action.
“We have such great community spirit here in South Tyneside and would appeal for people to help each other wherever they can, whether that be spreading the message or supporting their neighbours and families to manage the excess waste, while industrial action continues.”
Despite the Council’s repeated attempts to bring forward ACAS conciliation GMB and UNITE unions have refused to sit at the table to try and bring an end to the dispute – walking away from planned conciliation in early December before discussions had even begun.
The Council continues to meet regularly with all three unions, but the critical element in bringing planned industrial action to an end is through formal ACAS conciliation.
Due to the legal restrictions that protect industrial action, the Council has been unable to acquire the resources needed to provide an alternative service to date. However, contingency planning continues behind the scenes, in addition to changes to collection patterns.
“Action short of strike”, (“working to rule” and “go slows”), has been ongoing since November and continues to cause disruption.
A Council spokesperson added: “We are absolutely committed to ending this dispute through ongoing dialogue, mediation, and conciliation. The lines of communication remain open in the spirit of constructive and positive industrial relations.
“We are disappointed that these latest rounds of strike action have come in response to communication with the crew, which not only reminded them of their important roles on the front line but reinforced our commitment to resolve matters and move forward.
“Our people are our strongest asset, and our waste services team are valued members of the Council’s workforce serving on the frontline. The service supports 72,000 households, emptying 6.5 million bins every year. In the last four years, improvements in service delivery have seen customer complaints reduce by 79 per cent.”
GMB and UNITE union members “wish to affect a change in Operational Management.”
The Council is undertaking a full and thorough investigation into matters raised by waste operatives.
An external independent investigation was commissioned in September and all matters raised by waste services employees were considered. Less than one fifth of waste operatives that submitted concerns (10/52) chose to take part in the independent investigation process.
The preliminary findings of the Investigator’s report were shared with all Trade Unions representing those involved in the grievance with further questions raised that the Council posed back to the independent investigator.
This independent investigation forms only one part of the overall report into matters raised, aligned to the Council’s Resolving Issues at Work Policy. The final report, which will be confidential to employees; the unions and the Council, is expected to be shared with all parties in the coming weeks.
Industrial action by GMB and UNITE unions has proceeded ahead of the investigation being concluded or ACAS negotiations taking place.
The Recycling Village remains open every day, except Christmas Day, with additional slots made available.
For further information, including Frequently Asked Questions, visit the Council’s website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk