Bin men set to vote on taking strike action

Is Bexhill and Rother facing more problems with rubbish collection?
Is Bexhill and Rother facing more problems with rubbish collection?

Residents in Bexhill could face more problems with their rubbish collections as disgruntled binmen are set to vote whether or not to go on strike.

Last year Rother District Council was inundated with complaints when Kier Environmental Services took over responsibility for waste collection in the district last year.

In recent months complaints to the Observer have dried up but residents could face new problems as two unions are backing their members to take strike action.

Public sector union GMB has said it is balloting members because of concerns over working conditions, while Unison said Kier had reneged on a pay agreement.

In response Kier has said it takes health and safety very seriously and blamed an “administrative error” for staff not receiving a backdated pay increase.

Gary Cook, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “GMB members are rightly angry at the lack of response and the seeming disregard that Kier management have for the concerns and wellbeing of their staff.

“This has led them to an overwhelming mandate for GMB to ballot for industrial action.

“As a result of bullying and intimidating attitudes of Kier management, a number of GMB members have been signed off sick with stress.

“Some staff have turned up for work and then had to go home because of the way they get treated.”

Kelly Hannah-Rogers, area organiser for Unison, said: “It really is the last straw for this group of workers.

“This latest decision by Kier follows a catalogue of poor treatment towards long serving staff.

“Since the outsourcing of the waste contract in April 2013, staff have had to chase on basic entitlements such as access to a pay slip and being paid correctly.

“These issues have been raised with elected counsellors in the hope that someone will take responsibility for such bad practices.”

A spokesperson for Kier said: “Our Kier team at East Sussex Waste Partnership received their normal January pay on time.

“Unfortunately due to an administrative error, an additional backdated 2.2 percent increase was missed on this payment run, but this is being paid on the next payment run, and we have explained this to Unison, so we believe this has resolved any confusion they may have had.

“With regard to the GMB, Kier takes the concern of employee well-being and health and safety very seriously.

“Although we haven’t received any formal explanation for the ballot for strike action, we believe that this relates to two instances where safety and well-being were actually our paramount concern.

“These instances relate to breaches by six employees of our drugs and alcohol policy and a case of bullying and intimidation within the workforce, which we take a zero tolerance approach to.

“It will be disappointing if the GMB takes the view that it is appropriate to condone this behaviour.

“We remain open to talks with the GMB over both of these issues, and after repeated co-operative meetings we are surprised that a ballot for strike action has been initiated. “