100,000 homes could be left without bin collections as Rhondda refuse workers vote for strike
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Refuse workers in Rhondda Cynon Taf have voted in favour of strike action which could affect more than 100,000 homes if it goes ahead.
The GMB union said a 95% majority of its members in the refuse and recycling department at RCT Council have voted in favour of industrial action which could see 130 people go on strike and 108,000 homes left without bin collections.
There is an agreement in place that any action will be put on hold while talks continue but the union said the clock is now ticking to find a solution to what it says is the historic underpayment of workers.
The union is calling for amendments to the job evaluation scheme as it says the current system leaves essential workers short-changed for their work.
The union said that during the pandemic, refuse workers, alongside other essential service workers, were put at risk, whilst “council big wigs” worked from home.
GMB said that over the last decade, local government staff have seen their wages cut by about 25%.
Gareth Morgans, GMB regional organiser said: “This group of workers has been grossly underpaid ever since a job evaluation in 2011.
“The pandemic and current cost of living crisis have brought this to the fore and GMB members are clearly saying enough is enough.
“We are fed up of being the poor relations in comparison to their counterparts in neighbouring local authorities.
“Although talks have commenced to try and find a resolution to this dispute, the result of the ballot means that the clock is now ticking to find a solution and the patience of our members is finite.
“The ball is RCTCBC’s court. We call on the newly-elected Labour group to show leadership and offer fair remuneration for frontline workers – particularly those who worked through the pandemic who put themselves and their families at risk, keeping vital services operating. “
Deputy leader of the council Councillor Maureen Webber, who is also cabinet member for council business, said: “The council is proactively considering the representations of the GMB, through our job evaluation process, and is disappointed that the GMB have sought to ballot members, before the conclusion of this process.
“Remuneration of local government workers is agreed nationally, and this council has supported the representations of the WLGA and LGA, alongside trade unions, for the UK Government to recognise the important roles played by all local government workers in its public sector pay determinations.
“Our councillors have proactively championed the need for the UK Government to recognise the important roles played by all public sector workers, through fair pay awards, which reflect the rising cost of living. It is disingenuous of the GMB to suggest that this circumstance is as a result of actions taken by this council.
“As a council we recognise the dedication of all key workers, who continued to perform their vital role during the pandemic, and through national pay negotiations we will champion the need for the vital role of local government workers to be valued by the UK Government.”
A council spokesperson said: “In respect of references to this group of workers being ‘underpaid’ since a job evaluation in 2011, the national job evaluation process was brought into being with the agreement of the recognised trade unions (which included GMB) to address matters of equal pay and ensure that staff received the appropriate grade for the role they undertake.
“The council was aware that the GMB was balloting its members, even though the council had given a commitment to undertake a review of the job evaluation process, with discussions around this matter having already commenced.
“The council was notified yesterday of the outcome of the ballot but agreed with the GMB that any action would be put on hold whilst these talks continue over the next few weeks.”
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