Doncaster bin strikes are called off - but only 'for now,' says union

Two planned five day bin strikes in Doncaster have been called off.

Tuesday, 22nd August 2017, 2:17 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:06 pm
Bin collections in Doncaster.

Doncaster Council has announced this morning that agreement has been reached between union Unite and waste contract operator Suez after a last minute pay deal was struck between the two sides.

A post on the authority's Facebook page said: "IMPORTANT: Bin strikes called off.

"A solution has been reached between Suez, Unite and its workforce. This excellent news means the proposed strikes have been called off and it is business as usual for our waste collection services."

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The first strike was scheduled to begin tomorrow until August 27 and a further period of strike action from September 2 finishing on Wednesday 6 September.

But Unite has said the industrial action has only been averted - and that disruption could still go ahead.

The workforce will receive a two per cent increase backdated to April 2017, a further 2.7 per cent increase from September 2017. Workers will see their pay further boosted with an additional 2.7 per cent increase earmarked for March 2018 brought forward and paid from September 2017. The overall pay increase means that workers will be on average £1 an hour better off. It was further agreed that during the lifetime of the contract the workforce will receive an annual pay increase equal to RPIx.The redundancies are linked to a new refuse and recycling contract tendered by Doncaster Council, which is due to begin in April 2018. Unite is determined to minimise job losses and an absolute red line for the union is that Suez removes the threat to make workers compulsorily redundant. It has been agreed that talks will begin at Acas on Friday to allow for detailed negotiations to take place to discuss the new Doncaster refuse contract which will include “different collection methodologies, frequencies and collection crews." Unite regional officer, Shane Sweeting, said: “This deal has dramatically improved the wages of our members and means many of them are being paid above poverty pay rates for the first time.“Residents of Doncaster will be relieved that their refuse collection will not be seriously disrupted by strike action this week. “However until Suez withdraws the threat to make over 100 refuse workers compulsorily redundant the possibility of industrial action this autumn remains very much on the table.”Unite acting national officer for local authorities Jim Kennedy, said: “This has been a difficult and complicated dispute; our members have been resolute to winning pay justice. “It is important to recognise and thank the support that Unite has received from local politicians and community leaders in reaching a deal on pay and brokering talks on the future of the contract. This has assisted in the planned strikes being called off.”

The initial dispute concerned pay and Suez had offered workers a two per cent increase but this was conditional on the removal of guaranteed overtime, which would in reality mean that workers would have their pay frozen.

The Suez dispute has further deepened as the company has also announced that it is looking to effectively halve the 250 strong workforce by October and is intent on making over 100 workers redundant.

Nick Browning, General Manager for Municipal Operations at Suez recycling and recovery UK said: “I am pleased to be able to say that a long-term pay deal was reached between Suez and Doncaster Unite members yesterday afternoon.

"This means that strike action, which was planned to begin tomorrow is avoided and it will be business as usual.

"In addition to securing a pay award for 2017, the long-term deal struck yesterday also sets in place a sustainable pay mechanism for up to ten years – linked to the cost of living. This was designed to be fair and provide certainty to all parties moving forward.

"We would like to thank the residents of Doncaster for their patience and understanding while these negotiations have been ongoing.”