BRIGHTON’S bin collection staff refused to go out on their rounds on Friday.

Staff at the Cityclean depot in Hollingdean staged an unofficial walkout at 11.15am as a dispute with council bosses escalated.

It comes as the threat of an official bin strike looms over the city.

Street cleaning staff were not involved in the walkout and carried out their duties as normal.

But staff working on rubbish and recycling collection rounds went home without pay.

It is understood they will return to work on Monday.

Workers’ trade union the GMB said it had not officially sanctioned the walkout.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it was “disappointed” with the unofficial strike action.

The dispute centred around whether union official Dave Russell should be allowed to work from the depot or be restricted to the union’s offices.

One worker told The Argus: “The vast majority of workers staged a sit-in in the canteen at Cityclean in a dispute between managers and the workforce. The head of Cityclean [Rachel Chasseaud] came in to speak. She wasn’t able to offer anything that changed the workforce’s viewpoint.

“The dispute is based on the fact that there is a union rep based in the Cityclean yard who is a key union convenor [Dave Russell].

“He’s the main man. If there’s ever a warning or disciplinary meeting, he’s the one everyone looks to represent them.

“There’s a general feeling that the council have got their mind set against him because he’s quite an active union man and a thorn in their side. The workforce are very concerned about this ... they see it as the council dictating who can and cannot represent them.

“If this continues, there will be a strike. [Ms Chasseaud] is staring down the barrel of an industrial strike which is going to be called if they carry on like this.

“The workforce are really aggrieved by this and, to a man, they decided to walk out and go home.”

He said staff were given the option to work and get paid or go home and get nothing.

“The workforce decided to go home and not get any pay at all to make the point that it’s a serious matter,” he said. “They showed the council management that the issue is greater than individual workers’ pay. If we don’t take a stand against them we will lose much more than a day’s pay in the long run.”

GMB boss Gary Palmer said the workforce had not consulted the union on the strike action.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “It’s disappointing that unofficial strike action took place today in the council’s refuse and recycling services. All efforts were made to ensure collections took place whilst we talked with staff to understand and resolve the concerns.

“The council has received a number of allegations and counter allegations about members of staff which need to be investigated and we’ve agreed with the GMB to appoint an independent person from outside of the council to review this. As we do in all cases like this; we’ve asked some of the staff involved to work away from the Cityclean depot to ensure disciplinary and grievance investigations are completed fairly and while the Acas discussions continue.

“Asking people to work away from their normal workplace does not mean someone is suspended and is a neutral act.

“The staff members involved continue to undertake their roles, but at different sites. There is no loss of GMB representation for GMB members at the depot and union members have full choice about who represents them.

“We’re not clear about why the unofficial action took place today but we’re talking with everyone involved and we’re determined to work with the GMB and Acas to resolve this.”

  • This story was updated on July 14, 2019, to include the city council's response.