Binmen vote to strike

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BINMEN have voted to strike in Sheffield after three years of having their wages frozen.

The workers say their pay has not gone up despite contractor Veolia receiving an inflationary increase every year in the fee it is paid by Sheffield Council to empty the city’s bins.

A ballot has been carried out by the GMB trade union which represents 200 binmen and associated staff.

Sixty per cent returned their papers - and 75 per cent backed a strike. Some 86 per cent supported industrial action short of a strike, such as binmen refusing to work overtime.

GMB regional organiser Peter Davies said: “Veolia has received inflationary increases each year in the amount it receives from Sheffield Council to run the service.

“It is not on that our members have not seen wages rise in turn.”

Binmen are already facing the threat of 40 job losses when the frequency of black bin collections in Sheffield is halved from weekly to fortnightly from April.

Mr Davies said a mass meeting of Veolia staff will now be held, probably on Thursday, March 1, to decide what action they wish to take.

No dates for industrial action have yet been set but Veolia is being sent the legal notification necessary before a strike can be held.

Mr Davies said: “Even a ban on overtime will have an impact because there is not a crew in Sheffield which completes its round without overtime so some households would have their rubbish left uncollected.”

He added the union was willing to enter into consultation, but denied Veolia claims that employees had not received pay rises because of an agreement that pay changes should be made on the same basis as those for council staff.

“No such agreement exists,” he said.

Residents urged the two sides to negotiate.

Steve Rich, secretary of Greenhill and Bradway Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, told The Star: “I am on the binmen’s side - it is a total disgrace.

“Veolia should at least give them a rise in line with the extra amount the council is providing.

“In these times there are enough problems without having to worry about a possible bin strike as well.

“The council leadership should step in to make sure talks to avoid a strike are successful.”

Janet Andrews, secretary of Endcliffe Corner Community Association, said: “Nobody else’s wages are going up but, on the other hand, the workers are entitled to strike. I’d appeal for talks to bring an outcome to the dispute.”

Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for environment, Coun Leigh Bramall, said: “We do not want the people of Sheffield to be impacted by this dispute. We want Veolia and their workforce representatives to sit down and work out a solution urgently that avoids any disruption to services.”

Veolia insisted its staff are subject to a national agreement to receive pay rises on the same basis as local government workers - and said that is why employees have not been offered a pay rise since April 2009.

A Veolia spokeswoman said: “Wage reviews for our Sheffield refuse collection staff are undertaken at national level as part of the National Joint Council arrangements.

“The NJC is made up of representatives from the Government and the trade unions who meet to agree pay issues for local government and associated workers. In recent times, the NJC negotiations have resulted in no increase being awarded.

“Veolia has always honoured pay increases agreed by the NJC and will continue to do so in the future.”

IN NUMBERS - VEOLIA STRIKE BALLOT

200 - binmen and associated Veolia staff who were balloted

60 - the percentage who participated in the strike ballot

86 - the percentage willing to take industrial action short of a strike

75 - the percentage who voted for outright strike