Bin strikes: Council issues advice to households as walkout looms

Green waste and recycling collections have been missed. Picture: Tony Gussin

North Somerset recycling centres and collections are set to be disrupted by strikes. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset recycling centres will close and some residents will not have collections when bin workers go on strike next week.

The GMB Union announced North Somerset Environment Company (NSEC) workers would strike for six days throughout the month, beginning on April 12, in a row over pay and conditions.

North Somerset Council confirmed talks are still ongoing and that the union has already turned down an improved pay offer.

Backwell recycling centre

Backwell Recyling Centre will be closed along with Weston and Portishead's sites. - Credit: Archant

Council executive for neighbourhoods, Mike Solomon understands workers' concerns but insists the council is struggling financially itself after the pandemic.

Cllr Solomon said the council remains 'committed and open to achieving a resolution to avoid industrial action'.

"I am pleased that NSEC has instructed ACAS, the UK's industrial mediation service, to support this process," he said.

"The pay being disputed is for the April 2021/22 financial year and our offers have been higher than inflation at that time.

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"Our latest offer package includes a pay rise of 4.5 per cent over two years. We already provide a real living wage.

"We realise the impact that global events are having on the cost of living but people need to understand that the council is also being hit by this and our budget is being put under increasing pressure.

"We strongly believe that North Somerset Environment Company is acting fairly."

GMB has earmarked April 12-13, Easter weekend (16-17) and April 21-22 for strike action.

Recycling centres in Weston, Portishead and Backwell will close on these dates and recycling services will be suspended.

Mike Solomon.

Cllr Mike Solomon. - Credit: NSC

To cope with the strain on services the strikes are expected to cause, households have been asked to reduce their amount of recycling when their collections return by storing some in their home for the next week.

Correctly sorting the recycling and parking vehicles 'courteously' has also been requested.

The council has also advised residents to continue putting black bins and garden waste out as usual for the time being as it carries out a contingency plan.

Cllr Solomon added: "We are working hard to limit the inevitable disruption to residents.

"We are today announcing our contingency plans so that residents know how this will impact them and what they need to do.

"I know that residents will share my bitter disappointment that we face a heightened risk of disruption to services due to the increased pay offer being rejected by the GMB.

"I would like to thank residents for their patience, understanding and cooperation during this very challenging time."

GMB has also imposed a ban on overtime for its workers between April 12-30 meaning they will not help, beyond standard hours, NSEC catch up with any backlog caused by the strikes.

NSEC's managing director admitted the strike put the company in a 'terrible position'.

Brian Veale said: “Industrial action is extremely challenging to plan for as we simply don’t know how many employees will refuse to work until the start of each shift and this may change from day to day.

"It is, therefore, a fluid situation but limiting disruption for North Somerset’s residents is our absolute priority. The GMB has put us in a terrible position.”

GMB disputes that North Somerset Council has offered a reasonable wage - claiming the rise to be in the region of 27 - 33 pence per hour.

A spokesperson for the Union said: “It is good news that these talks are taking place, but at the end of the day they will only mean anything if the council gets serious about an offer.

“Right now, they are taking the public for fools by putting out deceiving statements. Twenty-seven pence is twenty-seven pence, no matter how they try and dress it up.

“It is time they were honest with themselves about how bad the pay is and put their hands in their pockets and do something about it.” 

For updates on the situation visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/my-services/bins-recycling