GMB union members working for Thanet District Council’s Waste and Recycling collections services will go on strike for two weeks from Tuesday, May 30 in a dispute over pay.
The dispute is based on GMB members claim for pay increases and council banding uplifts which members say would modernise and reflect more accurately the reality of the hard, dirty, and “largely unappreciated good work” they deliver week in week out for Thanet’s district residents.
Gary Palmer GMB Regional Organiser said: “The strike notice covers an initial two weeks walk out, but there are always the possibility further dates are likely to be added until talks aimed at ending the dispute commence and meaningfully progress.
“I’m sorry to say though that the strike is liable to go on for some time as at the moment Mr Carmichael (Thanet council chief executive) is simply sitting back insisting that party’s not in dispute with the council or even representing the striking workers must be present before he will meet with us to discuss a settlement, something as the representatives of choice for drivers and operatives at the councils waste department we won’t agree to.
“The council we also understand have still not even responded as GMB have to an offer of assistance from ACAS in providing a conciliation service for both sides which might allow talks to commence, so our members are left with no choice but to walk out and not return until Mr Carmichael takes seeking a resolution seriously.”
Frank Macklin GMB Regional Organiser added: “The council’s priority of spending cash on a new hardstanding for the depots vehicles over staff pay sort of sums up what our members are up against in a time of crisis around the cost of living.
“You can only push people so far and our members desire to get what they are long overdue, while hearing those at the top earning decent salary’s pontificate about pay restraints and budget restrictions have forced them up to and past a breaking point.
“On a positive, any walk out could be paused if we had agreement that dates for meaningful talks were in the diary and agreed.”
However, Thanet council has accused the GMB of having no genuine desire to resolve the dispute and of failing to attend meetings to discuss the issues.
Colin Carmichael (pictured), Chief Executive of Thanet District Council, said: “We are incredibly disappointed that the GMB union has confirmed that its members intend to go on strike. Thanet is one of the councils in Kent and the wider South East region that has been targeted by GMB action, which ultimately risks impacting critical public services.
“Despite ongoing attempts to meet, GMB is refusing to hold discussions with our other recognised trade union which is in breach of our collective bargaining agreement.
“There are 543 members of staff at the council. Of the 59 eligible GMB members, 34 (58%) voted, and of those, 30 (88%) voted for strike action.
“We have contingency plans in place and are doing everything we can to mitigate the impact on our residents.
“We are committed to providing our residents with essential services and our staff play a critical role in enabling us to do this. We recognise the need to support our staff and competitive pay is important for recruitment and retention.
“Some of our lowest paid workers will see rises of up to 11.56% to bring their pay in line with the market rate. We have already applied a market supplement to the salary of the majority of cleansing staff. The supplements are backdated to the beginning of April this year, and lift salaries to a level which is comparable with other organisations offering similar services.
“These market supplements will only be withdrawn after permanent changes to the pay structure have been made. We expect that pay will then remain at a level equivalent to, or higher than, the market supplement currently in place.
“The statements made by GMB representatives don’t reflect the reality of our commitment to our staff. The grievances that have been raised by cleansing staff around pay and the working environment have already been addressed.
“GMB has consistently failed to attend meetings and there doesn’t appear to be a genuine desire to resolve this matter. Our door is always open for constructive conversation and we sincerely hope that a solution can be found without the inconvenience that a strike could bring to our residents.”
Waste and recycling workers with the GMB have also been taking action over pay in areas including Brighton. Strikes in Ashford were called off after an ’11th hour’ deal was reached.