Adur and Worthing Councils renew call for bin strike pause after GMB is subject of complaint to trade unions congress

The leadership of the GMB conducting the bin strike is the subject of a formal complaint to the governing body of unions about its actions in bringing the service to a halt.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has been asked to intervene after allegations over the way the GMB moved into the refuse, recycling and cleansing service just before Christmas, recruiting members and immediately threatening strike action.

The complaint has been made by another union UNISON which is officially recognised by Adur & Worthing Councils to represent staff across all services, not just waste.

UNISON says it cannot sit down formally with the GMB and the Councils to discuss ways of resolving the strike and resuming the service to residents. Without both unions present at formal talks working towards a joint recognition agreement allowing both to negotiate on pay and conditions the Councils have had no choice but to postpone talks scheduled for today.

In an effort to keep the discussions going it has invited the GMB to continue talking informally. Councils are also still working towards more formal talks, hopefully with both unions, on Thursday. The Councils have also called on the TUC to step in quickly to support their call for a suspension of the strike.

At the heart of the UNISON complaint is that GMB leadership have breached Principle 4 of the TUC Disputes Principles & Procedures 2019 which concerns disputes when two or more unions are involved. This says ‘no official or unauthorised stoppage of work or action short of a strike will take place before the TUC has had time to examine the issue. The union or unions concerned are under an obligation to take immediate and active steps to get their members to resume normal working’

The GMB first contacted the Councils on December 21 last year immediately threatening industrial action.

Last week Councils had managed to hold a meeting involving UNISON and the GMB to discuss a possible joint recognition deal for waste services which would allow them both to negotiate pay and conditions deals. However it is understood UNISON believes it can no longer work together with the GMB in waste services because of its ongoing actions.

A spokesman for Councils said:

"While we would welcome TUC involvement in addressing this local issue it means we have no choice but to suspend formal talks in the light of this. This means our residents continue to suffer the consequences of the strike action.

The TUC guidelines are clear when there is a dispute between two unions and that is that industrial action should be suspended and a return to work instigated. We understand UNISON’s position and would request again that the GMB pause its actions while this is investigated. It should not be forgotten that talks with UNISON have resulted in pay awards for waste service staff that were above most neighbouring councils deals, including one which the GMB agreed after taking strike action. The residents of Adur and Worthing do not deserve to be caught up in this.

"We have said we will talk to anyone as our review into pay and conditions continues but we must accept that UNISON has an agreement with us. It is ethically right that we accept its legitimacy to represent staff across all of our services, not just waste."

While recognition agreements can be informal they have a legal basis when it comes to negotiations on pay and conditions. Only a joint recognition agreement would allow both unions to represent all workers in the waste service and this is what Councils were working towards.

The Councils are still working hard to bring both unions around a table for talks on Thursday which were to be conducted by the mediation body, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). It is a Crown non-departmental public body of the UK government whose aim is to improve industrial relations.

The result of the review so far is that all staff had been given a pay rise in the first year of more than 6% on top of a national backdated pay award of 1.75%. The Councils' HGV drivers have been given pay rises of more than 12.7%. All of these proposed rises are permanent additions to salary scales and not one-offs

In total 65 members of staff have been moved up a pay grade and a further 40 who are required to drive HGVs regularly as part of their role will get a permanent annual £2,700 specialist skills supplement. Four more will get both the annual specialist skills supplement and be moved up a grade.

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