POLICE have warned binmen striking over poor working conditions that they are "not immune" to criminal law, as tensions over pay continue.

Sussex Police visited Courtlands Road, Eastbourne, to "engage" with protesters on Friday and Monday, after reports of demonstrators blocking bin lorries from leaving the depot.

Eastbourne Borough Council claims it was the third time representatives from GMB Union stood in front of lorries, stopping non-striking staff from collecting refuse from houses.

No arrests were made but the force warned that police "have powers at their disposal to respond to any issues or breaches of the peace".

A spokesman said: "On Friday, January 7 and Monday, January 10, officers were in attendance at Courtlands Road, Eastbourne, to engage with those present during the ongoing strike by GMB members.

"Pickets or assemblies in trade disputes are not immune from criminal law, and police have powers at their disposal to respond to any issues or breaches of the peace. However, the use of any powers must be carefully considered to ensure they are necessary and proportionate.

"At the time of writing, Sussex Police have been advised that further talks between GMB Union and its members will continue this week."

Last week, the GMB Union rejected a seven per cent pay rise offer, approximately £12.30 an hour, which falls short of the drivers’ claim for £13.50 per hour.

The council state that the union is demanding a 25 per cent pay increase, while the union say it is demanding about 20 per cent.

The council also offered a new space for drivers which will replace the current tea hut so workers can have space to meet before shifts and have refreshments.

GMB argue that refuse workers across the South Coast deserve respect and feel “angry and unappreciated” for their work in what is a “dirty and difficult job”.

On Friday, another week of action was added by the union from January 14 to January 28.

While on Monday, a council spokesman said: "The GMB Union has again today blockaded our Courtlands Road depot.

"This is the third time representatives of the GMB Union from outside Eastbourne have stood in front of our vehicles, stopping our staff from collecting refuse from local homes.

"We are working with Sussex Police and adhering to their guidance on dealing with the GMB Union blockade.

“On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week our staff will be catching up with refuse collections. Residents should put their refuse bins out for collection. Recycling will not be collected at this time."

Yesterday, the council wrote to the unit again to reconfirm the seven per cent pay rise to refuse workers and three per cent increase to all other staff at SEESL - South East Environmental Services Limited - the company set up by the council to deliver refuse.

GMB Union also revealed on Sunday night that strike action could spread west to Adur and Worthing, announcing that a consultative ballot for drivers is closing on January 19.