Angry binmen set to strike in Sheffield

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CONTROVERSIAL fortnightly rubbish collections are to begin next month in Sheffield.

But trade union officials representing binmen are warning of possible strike action over redundancies due to the money-saving changes.

The GMB, which represents about 200 binmen employed by Sheffield Council contractor Veolia, says it will be balloting for industrial action if there are any compulsory redundancies.

The union has also announced that staff will be working to rule in protest at shift changes being brought in with the new system.

Last time workers staged a similar protest in April, thousands of homes had their bins left unemptied.

Veolia and the council said the switch to fortnightly collections will be implemented in two phases.

Half of the city will start the new arrangements in July and the other half in September.

All households will finally be able to choose which items of recycling they put in their blue bins and boxes once the changes come in.

Details about which areas will be first to receive the new arrangements have not yet been revealed.

The council said the changes aim to save £2.5 million a year, but admitted they would lead to job cuts.

Peter Davies, regional organiser for the GMB, said: “The numbers of redundancies due to the change to fortnightly collections is about 42 - none of whom will be management.

“If there are compulsory redundancies we will be balloting for industrial action. We understand no management posts are to be lost - why is that?

“We are also unhappy about changes to shift patterns under the new arrangements. Currently, crews are given a zone of the city and work to empty all bins within it, then their work is done for the day.

“They rush around like headless chickens and ensure the job is done.

“Under the new plans, crews will have to empty bins in their area then help other crews until the end of their shift time. At the moment, they work very hard and do not take breaks.

“If the new shift patterns come in, they will work for their set hours and take breaks. Last time that happened, 35,000 bins ended up unemptied over three days.” The potential dispute comes as GMB members walk out for the first of six new one-day strikes in protest at job and hours cuts at household recycling centres.

Winnie Smith, of Arbourthorne Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “If there is a bin strike, it will cause havoc and lead to more fly tipping, but I think people will be sympathetic with the binmen’s fight to keep their jobs.”

Jean Gleadall, of Wisewood Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “I think the change to fortnightly collections is very sad because it will put people out of work. Where will they get another job from?”

Readers on The Star’s website were also concerned that fortnightly bin collections could lead to more fly tipping and fires.

Reader ‘Zap’ posted: “The number of rubbish fires will increase with people burning rubbish instead of leaving it uncollected for two weeks.”

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for environment, said: “If savings are not found in the waste budget, other services would have to be cut even further to fill the gap.”

He promised to ‘support Sheffield people in adapting to this change’ with large bins available for large households or those with medical conditions.

Coun Scott added: “Whilst redundancies are a possibility, the actual numbers are not known as the voluntary enhanced scheme is still open to the workforce.

“I hope that the Union takes a sensible approach to this situation and works with Veolia and the council to achieve the best solution for the people of Sheffield.”

For more information about alternate week collections, visit www.veolia.co.uk/sheffield or call 0114 273 4567.