BRIGHTON’S binmen have threatened to take strike action as the rubbish collection epidemic worsens.

Since the turn of the year, residents’ bins have been left overflowing for weeks on end, leaving people frustrated and the city in an abysmal state.

Two months ago Brighton and Hove City Council said it was due to a shortage of drivers, bin lorries that overheated in the sun and bad parking by residents, but the issue has worsened.

Now the GMB has said fed-up workers want to go on strike. Mark Turner, the union’s Sussex branch secretary, said: “Everything is panic management from the senior management. Frontline workers and managers are getting pulled from pillar to post.

“In my experience of dealing with this workforce, it’s heading in the direction of a strike. People within the workforce are calling for a strike. I’m getting daily reports from my reps.

“Morale is falling and sooner or later the straw will break the camel’s back and the workforce will take the matter into its own hands and there will be no collections.

“There’s only so much the workers can put up with in the current state of affairs – it’s not fair on them and it’s not fair to the residents. The senior management are doing a better job to get people to strike than I am.”

But an Argus source has claimed drivers do not turn up for work and strike threats happen regularly.

The source said: “It obviously falls short of industrial action. This is low-level disruptive behaviour. The drivers are just not turning up.”

The source also said some workers chose to work for Pride rather than Cityclean two weeks ago – for more money – because they “could not be bothered” to turn up for the council and refuse to adapt to new ideas for the service.

The Argus:

Cityclean costs the taxpayer £10.3 million, with 31 lorries across its fleet. Its budget has fallen three per cent in the past year. An extra five crews are being deployed this weekend in a bid to blitz the mess.

Hove resident Tom Peach has a heart condition and can only walk short distances but has been driven to take pictures of overflowing bins near his home. We feature a selection of them on these pages.

Mr Peach wants something done. He said: “I find it deplorable the current state we find our streets. How does the council justify this?

“Is the collection now fortnightly? Someone needs to hold their hand up to this debacle and admit fault.”

The Argus:

Deputy Tory leader Lee Wares, who represents Patcham and Hollingbury, said residents have continued to complain about bin collections, and fellow Conservatives Robert Nemeth, of Wish ward, and Dawn Barnett of Hangleton echoed this. All three said Cityclean workers work hard and are not to blame.

Cllr Wares said his party tabled a motion “asking for a detailed report on everything regarding Cityclean” which will be presented to the environment committee in October.

Tory leader Tony Janio said: “Who is actually running Cityclean? I think there is a bit of a power play going on.

“This miserable Labour administration has almost given up. They have so many internal problems with people being deselected they have lost focus on Cityclean.

“It is the top priority to help Labour (with the problem) and in the future, when we are in power, to sort out Cityclean.”

The Argus:

Deputy council leader Gill Mitchell, chairwoman of the environment committee, conceded the issue was getting worse but hit out at Cllr Janio, insisting Cityclean is a priority and the authority is working on improving it.

She said: “We accept there are problems with the service and we are trying very hard to resolve these issues with all Cityclean staff, including managers and GMB members.

“There is no ‘panic’ management, and staff are not pulled from ‘pillar to post’ as the union claims. The management is doing its very best to ensure our bins are collected and streets are cleaned, but staff shortages and sudden staff illnesses mean managers have to prioritise how and where staff are deployed, sometimes on a day to day, hour to hour basis.

“The problems are mainly being caused by a temporary shortage of drivers and collectors due to annual leave and sudden sickness. These are normally covered by agency staff, however even agencies have been finding it difficult to provide us with properly trained people.

“The staff we do have are working very hard to get things back to normal as soon as possible.”

The Argus:

Charity may have to pay £10,000 for rubbish clearance

CHARITY workers whose uncollected rubbish has been piling up for three weeks were shocked to discover they could now be charged more than £10,000 a year for the service.

Jenny Wells and Cheryle Wood, pictured above, have worked at the RSPCA in Patcham, Brighton, for 30 years and have never seen such a mountain of rotting rubbish in the charity’s bins. 

A truck finally arrived yesterday after three weeks of no collections.

But there was so much rubbish  there was not enough room in the lorry to collect it all in one visit. 

Now the charity has been told it is liable to pay £15 a week for each of its 13 bins to be picked up.

This means the animal rescue service could pay  more than £10,000 a year for its rubbish collection service.

Ms Wood said: “We feel let down by the council because we play an important role in the local community.

“We’re a self funded charity and they just came out the blue and they said they would be charging us. 

“We are very cross.”

Brighton and Hove City Council said it was “currently investigating this issue”.