MEMBERS of the GMB union have agreed to a council offer to end the bin dispute.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it had made a "serious offer for a serious situation" to end industrial action in talks yesterday, including a "significant and generous pay offer" which would raise wages for some of its lowest paid workers as well as the Cityclean service.

The agreement, which is due to be voted on by the council’s policy and resources committee today, would bring the threat of further industrial action by refuse workers to an end.

GMB branch secretary Mark Turner told The Argus that the agreement put forward by the council “ticks every box and more” and would see more than 1,000 council workers get a pay rise should the deal be implemented in its entirety.

He also confirmed that if councillors vote in favour of the deal, “the threat of industrial action on Thursday will be withdrawn”.

Bin workers had been due to start a five-week walk-out from Thursday if a deal with the council was not reached.

A council spokesman said: “We're pleased that the formal resolution proposal has this morning been agreed by GMB members and it will now be put forward to the council's policy and resources committee for ratification in the next few days.

"We apologise to residents, business and visitors to the city for the disruption during the last few weeks and thank you for your patience."

Waste in some parts of the city was finally collected yesterday after the GMB’s fortnight of strike action came to an end, with bin lorries spotted collecting rubbish.

Council accused of "strike breaking" by GMB

The council had been forced to call in third-party contractors on Sunday to clear some of the worst piles of rubbish, amid health and safety concerns.

A council spokesman cited blocked pavements, rats and a spate of bin fires as reasons to bring in waste disposal contractors to clear side waste and bin storerooms.

However, Mr Turner said the council’s decision “agitated the situation” and that the claims made explaining the decision “don’t stack up”.

He said: “We've asked for information that's been quoted to us, like letters from the Health and Safety Executive and East Sussex Fire and Rescue, but to date we have not got that.

"We're clear of the view that this was clear strike breaking and, if we don't see the evidence, we will be calling for an inquiry and look into what other action the union can take legally."

A council statement said: "The council is lawfully able to hire a third-party contractor to deliver its services during industrial action."

Conservatives express concern over cost of deal to taxpayers

While the Conservative group on the council has welcomed the end of the bin dispute, deputy leader of the party Councillor Robert Nemeth expressed concerns at the long-term consequences of the deal and its cost to taxpayers.

He said: "In the short term, it will come as a relief to residents that the official side of the strike is coming to an end.

"Looking ahead though, there are far-reaching consequences to take in regarding future demands and, of course, the financial cost that taxpayers will now face indefinitely."

Cllr Nemeth referred to the strike as the "GMB/Labour strike" and has made allegations the strike may have been orchestrated by Labour to undermine the Green administration.

Co-leader of the Labour group John Allcock has strongly denied these claims and called on the Conservative group to "distance themselves from these unhelpful and unfounded comments".

Labour ask why dispute took so long to resolve

Cllr Allcock, along with Councillor Carmen Appich, said the deal to end industrial action was “positive news” but were surprised the dispute took so long to settle.

They said the Green-led council should have resolved issues long before strike action was taken by the GMB and that residents would not have had to put up with rubbish in the streets if negotiations had started sooner.

In a joint statement, they said: "We need to see a commitment to resolving the underlying issues that led to strike action. Labour left a plan to fix these issues before moving into opposition. That included the recruitment of a senior industrial relations officer who has still not been appointed.

"There have been a host of missed opportunities and errors by the administration that have led us to this point.

"As a council, we must collectively reaffirm our commitment to residents and staff alike to get basic services delivered effectively and efficiently."

"Big rift" in relationship between council and union

Refuse workers began their two-week walk-out on October 5 in a dispute over working conditions, with a ballot of GMB members held last month receiving unanimous support for strike action.

Mr Turner of the GMB expressed hope that industrial relations will improve between Cityclean and the council, provided that management stick to the agreement reached yesterday.

However, he said that a "big rift" has been exposed in relations between the GMB and the council.

"Clearly there are certain people in the executive team who don't want to work or engage with the GMB," he said.

"We could have resolved this dispute a lot earlier, but the chief executive chose not to do that."

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