REFUSE workers have begun their second week of strike action across Brighton and Hove in their continued dispute with the council.

Rubbish is already piling up across the city, with bins overflowing with bags of waste from Withdean to Whitehawk.

After leaving talks with the council earlier this week, the GMB have threatened to continue their industrial action with another five week strike later this month.

But why are bin workers on strike and what should you do with your rubbish in the meantime? The Argus answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the ongoing bin strike gripping the city.

Why is the GMB on strike?

Refuse workers have been in an ongoing dispute with the council over unilateral imposed daily changes and the removal of drivers from long-standing rounds without notice.

The GMB claims that changes in driver duties, crew variations and alterations in plans around the collection of dropped work has had a “detrimental impact” on the health and wellbeing of HGV drivers.

GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said that the dispute was avoidable and has been the result of the council’s own making.

He said: “They have been told time and time again about the service issues and detriment to our members’ health and wellbeing resulting around tinkering with well-established rounds and moving of HGV drivers outside of their own council formal procedures, yet they ignored our members and workplace reps’ complaints allowing it to go on anyway.”

A council spokesman said that the pandemic and a national shortage of HGV drivers have created pressure within the Cityclean service and that there have been occasions where it has felt “appropriate to make crew changes or move a member of staff from one round or crew to another” to provide the best service for the city.

“We believe these requests are made openly and fairly and any concerns about round changes are quickly responded to by managers,” he said.

In a ballot last month with an almost 80 per cent turnout, 100 per cent of members voted in favour of industrial action.

GMB branch manager Mark Turner said that the decision to strike is not one taken lightly.

Mr Turner said: “Members don’t take action lightly - they’re not being paid.

“That’s how determined they are and that’s how angry they are.”

54 refuse and lorry drivers are currently taking part in the walk out. However, the GMB have announced plans to ballot more Cityclean workers on strike action.

What days are bin workers on strike?

The current industrial action began on October 5 and will last two weeks, ending on October 19.

Should an agreement not be reached between the GMB and the council, a second strike will start on October 21. This is expected to last for five weeks, ending on November 25 if no resolution to the dispute is made.

What services are affected?

Household and communal bin waste, along with recycling services, are affected by the strike action, as well as garden and trade waste services.

The council’s street cleansing team are currently still operating but the GMB is planning on balloting these staff members on industrial action.

What should I do with my rubbish?

The council advises that you double or triple bag any refuse or rubbish you have and leave it outside your green wheelie bin.

If you live in an area with a communal bin area, like a block of flats, they say you should store your waste at home if possible. However, if it is not possible to store rubbish in your home any longer, the council says to double or triple bag any rubbish and place it at a communal bin.

For recycling, residents are advised to flatten boxes, minimise waste and store it at home.

The council’s household waste recycling sites, in Old Shoreham Road, Hove and Wilson Avenue, Brighton, currently remain open throughout the strike taking recycling.

Why doesn’t the council hire agency drivers to do the work during the strike?

This is prevented by government legislation, which prevents the use of agency workers to replace striking staff. However, the council does have contingency plans in place in order to provide as good a service as possible.

How are negotiations going between the council and the GMB?

At the end of last week, talks between both sides appeared to be going well, with the GMB and the council putting out a joint statement that they had had a “productive meeting.”

However, negotiations collapsed yesterday over the issue of pay. While the subject had not been part of the original ballot, the council proposed an increased pay offer to “recognise the hard work of not just Cityclean staff, but all staff working across the council.”

The GMB claim that their proposals for pay were deemed acceptable by the council in a meeting on Friday, but were met with an offer for less in talks yesterday.

Branch leader Mark Turner said that the council said the deal they were proposing was non-negotiable and union representatives opted to leave the table.

The council denies any formal or informal deal was put to the union on Friday. Deputy leader of the council Hannah Clare said: “We’re disappointed that the GMB walked out of the room before discussing this offer with us.

“Only by staying around the table can a good outcome be reached, both for staff and residents of our city.

“We are really keen to keep discussing this latest offer with the GMB and hope they will reconsider their walk-out and resume talks. Our door remains open to talk any of this through with GMB reps.”

How long will it take for the service to return to normal when the strike ends?

It remains unknown when the dispute will be resolved and the council admits that there will be up to weeks of continued disruption to collection services after the strike comes to the end, as it will take considerable time to “catch up.”

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