Tens of thousands of bins could be left uncollected after staff at Sheffield Council contractor Veolia voted for a work to rule protest in a pay dispute.
The GMB trade union, which represents Sheffield binmen, estimates refuse and recycling collections could be disrupted on up to a third of rounds.
Veolia was yesterday given 10 days’ notice of the industrial action but further talks are taking place using arbitration service ACAS, in a final attempt to resolve the matter.
The dispute has arisen because Veolia is offering an annual two per cent pay rise for the next two years.
But binmen want an increase in line with inflation, currently 3.3 per cent according to the RPI index.
Peter Davies, regional organiser for the GMB, said: “We had a 75 per cent turnout for the ballot, in which 67 per cent voted for strike action and 94 per cent for action short of a strike.
“The union has agreed to talks with ACAS in the meantime.”
He added: “Nobody wants to take industrial action but we know Veolia is making a healthy profit.
“Its payment from Sheffield Council normally increases each year in line with inflation so they have the money and our members feel it is right they should receive a share.
“It is true Veolia had to make savings last year but that came from reducing black bin collections from weekly to fortnightly, so our members paid with their jobs.
“Veolia only gave a small pay rise last year - which was mainly from giving different workers equal pay - and before then there had not been a pay rise for five or six years.”
Mr Davies said Veolia relies on binmen working overtime to complete rounds across the city.
“Around one third of rounds will be affected by the industrial action and there will be bins left unemptied,” he added.
Residents said although there was sympathy for the binmen, they felt they were ‘being used as pawns’ in the dispute.
Mick Daniels, of Brushes Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Firth Park, said: “It’s going to end up like last year when bins were unemptied in a similar dispute.
“The public are being used as pawns in a wage row which should be sorted out but I have some sympathy for the binmen because it’s a hard job and they work outdoors.”
Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat leader, said: “The two sides have to come together and resolve this issue as soon as possible.
“If we have bins left uncollected it could lead to more fly-tipping.”
A Veolia Environmental Services spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed our refuse and recycling collectors have rejected our pay offer and have taken the decision to work to rule.
“However, we continue to work with the GMB Union and both parties have agreed to involve ACAS in further discussions.
“We would like to reassure residents collections are still taking place as normal.
“Disruption to the service will be kept to a minimum whilst discussions are on-going to reach an amicable resolution.”