Sandwell bin workers vote for industrial action but will not take full strike
Bin collectors in Sandwell have voted to take industrial action amid a row over working conditions - but stopped short of a full strike.
Crews voted to take "action short of strike", effectively meaning they will work to rule and do the minimum required of them.
The GMB union said it would meet with Serco, which handles the domestic waste contract on behalf of Sandwell Council, on Wednesday following the outcome of the ballot to continue talks and warned it would be "setting dates for the action to start if an agreement is not reached".
The row was sparked by the removal of two bin lorries and the extra work being put on existing crews, leading to accusations that the health and safety of workers could be at risk.
A crisis has been escalating over recent months, with "unofficial strikes" leaving rubbish piled up on the streets over the Christmas period. However a full strike has been avoided for now.
GMB branch secretary Darren James said: "The ballot result shows the strength of feeling among our members – they don’t want to inconvenience the public but they are angry and they want Serco to know it
"Their safety and the safety of the public must come ahead of Serco’s bottom line.
"Hopefully the council and Serco take note before industrial action takes place.”
New MP Shaun Bailey has said sorting the “bin farce” in Sandwell is his “number one priority”.
The newly-elected Conservative MP for West Bromwich West said council bosses needed to “pull their heads out the sand” and sort out the issue.
Angry residents have slammed Sandwell Council after a string of missed bin collections – a saga which has been ongoing since November.
Mr Bailey said: “This bin issue is a total farce at the moment. I’ve been inundated with calls and emails from people.
“Sandwell Council just has buried their heads in the sand.”
Sandwell Council cabinet member Councillor Maria Crompton said: “We hope that Serco, its staff and unions will be able to resolve the dispute quickly and reach an amicable agreement without further disruption to residents.”
And a spokesman for Serco said staff shortages over the busy Christmas period meant it was working to catch up.