Union and council bosses remain in deadlock after a day-long bin strike, with work-to-rule action in place for the foreseeable future.

The GMB union taking care of Cityclean workers has said it is waiting for Brighton and Hove City Council to come to the table with a better deal for its HGV drivers.

The Argus understands that a crunch meeting was held between the council and the GMB last Thursday, which ended with no improved offer for the union.

The GMB wants its 38 HGV drivers to be put on a higher pay grade than six street cleaning staff who now earn the same as them.

It says refuse drivers have greater responsibilities than those street cleaners.

Mark Turner, branch secretary of the GMB, has challenged the council to “put its money where its mouth is”.

He said: “We’ve made our position clear – it’s up to the council now to come to us and say please come back to the table.”

The latest revelation comes after bin lorry drivers took to the picket line again yesterday in a dispute over their pay and conditions.

Refuse and recycling workers forfeited a day’s pay to make their feelings known outside the Cityclean depot in Hollingdean yesterday.

This bout of industrial action comes after a public sector strike on Thursday, July 10, involving Cityclean staff had a knock-on effect for householders.

The drivers are protesting because of the “unskilled” pay band in which they are currently categorised.

The bin drivers are presently on a par with teaching assistants in terms of salary and feel their skilled work – driving 26-ton, £150,000 vehicles – deserves better pay.

One driver, Paul Weston, 60, said: “We are all professional drivers. When I get into that lorry the responsibility is tremendous.

“I am responsible for the vehicle, the streets and for my colleagues.

“At the end of the day you just want to have a shower and fall asleep. All I want is to do my job and go home.

“It’s not just about the money – it’s about being undervalued.”

Another, Derek Shrubb, 57, has worked for Cityclean since it started introducing recycling into its collections.

He said: “It’s gone backwards. We are not getting the work done and it all seems to be our fault.

“We used to have about 98% satisfaction among residents – I’d love to know what it is now.”

Yesterday’s strike ran until midnight.

Gary Palmer, a regional organiser for the GMB on the picket line, said it “was not a decision taken lightly” and that there would be work-to-rule action “indefinitely” until the council holds talks.

Work to rule means, among other things, that workers will not be picking up “side waste” – ie the bags and boxes left next to bins and recycling containers on bin day.

He said: “We stress very strongly that this is not against the people of the city – the council has not moved since June.

“What choice do these guys have?

“They are resolute – they do feel undervalued.

“We are willing to meet at any time. It’s time to put something on the table.”

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat says the recycling and refuse HGV drivers' demands threaten to undermine equal pay law.

He said: “It’s surprising the GMB aren’t happy that some of their members in street cleaning saw an increase in take-home pay from last year’s allowances settlement. “No pay is being cut and no jobs are under threat.

“This GMB action creates misery for residents and puts senior management at Cityclean in an impossible position and threatens all the good work happening behind the scenes.

"I’m also keen to see Cityclean bidding for commercial contracts to help support the council’s difficult budget position. Unfortunately the GMB’s action seriously jeopardises this.

“I’m confident that senior officers are keeping an open door to the union and hope both sides can reach a resolution which does not undermine the fair and equal system of pay now used.

“I’m very sorry that residents have to experience disruption to their services due to GMB’s actions.

"I urge the union not to undermine the good progress just as things come into place to get the waste service the city deserves alongside fair pay for all.”

Conservative opposition leader, Geoffrey Theobald, agrees with the council’s position.

He said: “There is absolutely no justification for the GMB bosses to bring yet more bin misery to the city’s long suffering residents.

“I am pleased to see that, at last, the Green council leader has finally issued a statement condemning the strike today but frankly it’s too little, too late.

“And the Labour Party, with its strong connections to the GMB union, should use its influence to persuade these strikers to get back to work for the good of the city.

“This is all about a handful of truck drivers who are not happy that some of their supervisor colleagues in the street cleaning service now earn as much as they do following the job evaluation process.

“The council should not give in to their demands.”

Councillor Warren Morgan, leader of the Labour and Co-operative Group on the council, said: "Residents quite rightly want the political squabbling over our refuse service to stop and they want to see a swift end to this dispute. So do we.

“If elected next May, Labour will make the running of our refuse and recycling service a top priority for the council, with responsibility moved to the Policy and Resources Committee under the council leader. We need a reliable and first-class service and that is what we will seek to deliver.”

The council says it will not be bringing in agency staff to cover the strike action.

Head of City Clean & Parks Richard Bradley said: “I’m sorry to say that the strike has caused disruption to the service and it may be some time before we can fully catch up.

"I spoke to the GMB union on Saturday to try and reach a resolution and avoid industrial action. 

"The council is unable to meet their demands of increasing the pay of refuse and recycling charge hand drivers as there have been no changes to these roles and this would break the council’s recognised job evaluation scheme.

"We remain fully committed to discussions and have offered  to continue conversations with the GMB.”


Catch up 'will not happen'

The last round of industrial action in July was not coupled with a work-ahead plan, unlike during a ten-day strike in June 2013. The fall out from yesterday’s strike looks set to suffer the same fate.

Mark Turner, branch secretary for the GMB union, said: “Our members will not catch up any work that has been left. There will not be any work ahead.”

The past two years have not been easy for Cityclean officials.

Before July, the council admitted in an internal report that it had effectively lost count of missed rubbish and recycling collections over the past financial year in the wake of negotiations over pay, industrial action and a round reorganisation last autumn.

The worst months for disruption were the strikes of June 2013, last November as round changes were implemented and January while workers adjusted to them.

The council revealed its round changes could take as long as 18 months to bed down.

Cityclean has new leadership in Richard Bradley and new collection vehicles arriving to help with the bedding down.