CONTINGENCY plans have been drawn up to enable Sheffield households to dispose of their rubbish during six days of strikes at household waste recycling centres, writes Richard Marsden.
Management have pledged to keep two sites open during the first three days of industrial action - today, tomorrow and Monday.
Similar plans are to be announced for the next three days of strikes, which run from Wednesday to Friday, although details have not yet been revealed.
Members of the GMB trade union are walking out in protest at cuts to opening hours and five job losses - which they believe are unneccessary.
The union claims enough money could be made from selling recyclables to more than cover the cost of retaining seven-day opening.
Reduced hours at the five sites - Deepcar, Gleadless Valley, High Green, Shirecliffe and Woodhouse - started last week.
A statement by Sheffield Council, contractor Veolia and subcontractor Sova said: “Sheffield Council is working with SOVA Recycling and Veolia to resolve the dispute.
“While a strike has been called at all five sites in the city, SOVA Recycling Ltd have committed to opening at least two sites for the duration of the strike, keeping disruption to a minimum.”
Today and tomorrow, the two sites at Blackstock Road, Gleadless Valley, and Longley Avenue West, Shirecliffe, will be open from 10am until 6pm.
On Monday, Longley Avenue West, along with the site at Beighton Road, Woodhouse, will be open at the same times.
Coun Jack Scott, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment, said concessions have been made to the union, with redundancies reduced from nine originally proposed.
But the opposition Green Party has criticised the council. Coun Jillian Creasy, group leader and member for Central ward, said: “Veolia and Sova are making a profit while the service has been cut.”
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.