Bin workers vote for action as fresh pay dispute erupts

binsram'Veolia bin collection in Sheffield
binsram'Veolia bin collection in Sheffield

The prospect of bins going unemptied could be on the cards again in Sheffield after staff at council contractor Veolia voted for a work-to-rule in a dispute over pay.

The GMB trade union, which represents Sheffield bin workers, estimates refuse and recycling collections could be disrupted on up to a third of rounds.

Veolia was given 10 days’ notice of the industrial action, but further talks were taking place this week using arbitration service ACAS, in an 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 retail price 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. We’re looking for an inflation rise, anything below inflation is a cut, and we want a two-year-deal. The very last resort will be calling strike action, but we do have a mandate for that.”

Last year, a three-day walkout was averted after a long-running dispute over pay, which resulted in an increase for the lowest-paid workers, a lump sum settlement for others and changes to the pay structure.

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.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat leader, said: “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.”