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Council and union at loggerheads over bin strikes

24 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Green bags piling up in Cardiff. Photo Ted Peskett

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

Cardiff Council and one of the UK’s biggest unions are caught in a war of words as union members are set to vote on further bin strikes.

The council has issued a staunch denial of many of Unite’s claims, accused it of being “disingenuous” and said it had failed to provide any information about the bullying it was alleging weeks after the claims were first made.

Unite recently confirmed that strike action over pay, which has affected waste collection in Cardiff for more than two months, will come to an end on November 26.

However, if its members at Cardiff Council vote in favour of further industrial action over a number of alleged local issues, further walkouts will begin after Christmas.


Unite Wales regional secretary, Peter Hughes, said: “Huw Thomas, Cardiff Council’s leader, has done nothing to resolve this dispute, while the rubbish has piled up he’s been hiding.

“He must change his approach and use the coming weeks to work with Unite and deal with the local issues we have raised with him.

“He can’t hide anymore, he has the power to resolve these issues.

“If he fails to do so fresh strikes are on their way.”

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, also accused the council of failing to negotiate a resolution to the current dispute, but Cardiff Council said there have been numerous discussions with Unite.

Other alleged Cardiff issues that Unite is proposing to strike over include:

A failure to compensate workers for the cost of living crisis
The failure to implement council policies consistently
An increase in spinal pay points in line with the real living wage increase and maintain differentials
The failure to offer direct employment for agency workers
A failure to deal with grievances in an acceptable and timely manner

Pay offer

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “The current strike action taken by Unite – which is due to end next week – was based on a nationally-negotiated pay offer which has now been settled and will be paid to Council employees in their December pay.

“We are happy that a decision has been taken by Unite to return to work next week, but it is of course disappointing to hear that the union now seems intent on finding other reasons to strike.

“Unfortunately throughout this dispute Unite have been prone to issuing statements which have at best been disingenuous and today’s is little different to what we have heard in the past.”

Unite claimed in October that the council may have been using agency workers to break the latest strike action.

Cardiff Council firmly denied the allegation saying that it is “well aware of the law in this regard and has followed it scrupulously”.


The council spokesperson added: “We want to be very clear – despite Unite’s claims that there have been no talks, there have been numerous discussions with Unite, including meetings with the Leader and officers throughout this strike, both individually and alongside our other two main union partners the GMB and Unison.

“As to the other matters that Unite have raised, specifically over bullying allegations, we have asked for more detailed information from the union, which we are yet to receive, weeks after the allegations were made.

“During the strike they accused us of possibly using agency staff to cover striking workers – all untrue.

“Now Unite claim that their workers are on poverty wages, but this council has a proud track record of paying the real living wage so we find it disappointing that Unite are choosing to use deliberately misleading language.

“As a council we are happy to sit down with all our unions through our partnership arrangements to discuss any issues they might have, but it’s important to note the Council has to balance what it can offer employees from a pay point of view with what is affordable under current budgetary constraints.

“The Council is committed to discussing any matter with the trade unions in a reasonable manner – and constructive discussions have been held with the three trade unions on proposals for the early payment of the new Real Living Wage rate and a reduction in the qualifying time for agency workers to receive temporary contracts.”

The latest strike action in Cardiff has affected the collection of hygiene waste and garden waste across the city since it started on September 4.

The collection of mixed recycling has also been affected in certain parts of Cardiff, with green recycling bags piling up on some streets over the past month.

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