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Sandwell binmen to strike in days

Binmen in Sandwell will strike in the next 10 days in a bitter dispute over pay.


Binmen in Sandwell will strike in the next 10 days in a bitter dispute over pay.

The long-threatened industrial action is now just days away after an official strike ballot came back from the Electoral Reform Society last night.

Some 87 per cent of union Unite's 130 members voted in favour of the walk-out.

Out of 32 workers represented by union GMB, 15 voted in favour of the strike, and would support the action as there was a majority in favour across both unions.

GMB spokesman Darren James said: "The refuse workers have been unfairly treated. We have tried to seek a resolution and this is the last resort. We hope the public will support us." The action will result in overflowing bins and uncollected rubbish bags and could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Unite spokesman Brian Rickers said: "We are very reluctant to take this action but after numerous meetings with Sandwell Council we have not resolved the issue.

"We will therefore be striking some time in the next 10 working days unless a last- minute deal can be done.

"We believe there is still scope to get this matter resolved but Sandwell Council is not showing an interest in meeting with us so we feel we have no option.

"We feel sorry for the public. We want to tell them we did not want this to happen but we have been pushed into a corner. It is out of our hands. If they want to point the finger at anyone, it should be at Sandwell Council."

The strike is taking place over the single status pay shake-up. Under new contracts, trade and flats drivers now earn £26,100, domestic and recycling drivers £21,400 and loaders and yardmen £17,800.

Most binmen stand to lose £2,900 but some are facing losses of £8,100.

Mr Rickers would not say how long the strike would last for or when exactly it would start.

But he said the walkout could mirror an 11-week strike that took place in Leeds last year. Binmen in the borough have already cost taxpayers £250,000 by working to rule — forcing council bosses to pay out for agency staff and extra vehicles.

Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell's cabinet member for Safer Neighbourhoods, said today: "The result of the ballot is disappointing. They have not listened to what we have said.

We can only hope they do not go ahead with this. However, if they do, we have a contingency workforce in place to keep the service going.

"We anticipate we will be able to provide almost as good a service to the whole of Sandwell."

Single status was brought in six months ago in a bid to iron differences in pay and conditions at all local authorities.

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