GMB bin strike ballot for Hastings and Rother as Biffa end negotiations

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Action looks all but inevitable as Biffa have said talks are concluded and are then misleading Councillors in Hastings and Rother by saying the situation is being managed, says Union

GMB, the union for the waste and recycling sector, are set to ballot their members for strike action in Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council after Biffa, who run the refuse contracts for the two adjoining areas, ended negotiations with the union.

The talks, which were taking place with Biffa Contracts Manager Trevor Elliot along with senior Human Resources colleagues, ended with the company telling GMB representatives that there would be no improvement to the company’s 1.75% pay offer and that if they didn’t accept the offer, to “go ahead and have your strike.”

At the same time as these negotiations were so abruptly ended, Mr Eliot was quoted in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer responding to the joint Waste and Recycling Committee as having said, “There is a little bit of discussion and dialogue going on still between ourselves and the GMB, just to get this across the line and then look to negotiating for next year because this is so many months behind”.  He then added: “We are managing the situation, let’s put it that way. You can never say never, but alongside yourselves the last thing we want is any action and any disruption to services.”

GMB’s ballot will open on Friday 11th February and remain open for two weeks, meaning that any industrial action arising would be taking place around mid-March.

Frank Macklin, GMB Regional Organiser said: “With inflation running at around 5.4%, why would Biffa feel that a measly 1.75% pay offer would satisfy GMB Members right now?  All across the country, GMB waste and recycling operatives and loaders are recognising their own true value for the role they play in keeping our homes, streets and towns free of rubbish. All they are asking for is an end to in-work poverty pay and a decent pay rise above the increasing cost of living.

“I’m not absolutely sure about Biffa’s approach here, but while GMB representatives are being told by management that they’ll be no change to the 1.75% pay offer, and that ‘if you don’t accept it then go and have your strike’, they were busy informing councillors that ‘we are proactively working with the GMB and more recently we have had some favourable outcomes.’  It’s utter rubbish.

“GMB cannot be any more clear. A pay increase of 1.75% is insulting and our members will withdraw their labour if Biffa don’t take negotiations seriously.”

Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser said: “This disingenuous approach and game playing by local management in these pay talks has now left our members only one course of action to take, and that is almost certainly going to be strike action.  Action looks all but inevitable as Biffa have said talks are concluded and are then misleading Councillors in Hastings and Rother by saying the situation is being managed.

“Our members want a decent pay rise.  Street operatives and waste and recycling loaders need to move up to £11.50 per hour, the company’s 3.5 and 7.5 ton drivers need a similar pay rise that then maintains the skill differentials in their role, and HGV drivers, given market forces at this time, should move to £16 per hour.

“As always, the GMB union remain ready to get back around the table if called, but our members are telling us that enough is enough.  If management do want to recommence talks, it must be for serious offers and negotiations only, otherwise similar to what we saw in Brighton and Eastbourne, Hastings and Rother will see bins uncollected and streets not kept clean for some weeks from mid-March.

“Our members deserve better and with their support, the GMB Union intends to get it for them.”