Binmen to stage strike

CRAIGAVON binmen are threatening strike action from Monday - the day a new bin collection system is about to begin.

Despite apparently successful negotiations between staff and management at Craigavon Council last week, it is understood councillors rejected the deal at Monday night’s council meeting.

However, a spokesperson said: “Council has not been notified of any strike action.”

According to well-placed sources, unionists voted against the management proposal that the binmen work four and a half days per week and a total of 37 hours.

It is understood some councillors were insistent that the staff work a full five-day week, also totalling 37 hours.

Tense negotiations last week averted a strike when the GMB union and management thrashed out a deal on working hours.

Unions had also been concerned that there had not been a health and safety assessement on the new bin routes.

John Dawson, of the GMB Union said: “I have been stabbed in the back by the councillors. We went out of our way to meet the council half way. They have stabbed their own employees in the back.

“I am very, very disappointed,” he said.

He explained that he will be meeting the union members on Friday morning. Members are to be balloted on Friday regarding industrial action.

“And that will not preclude adhering to the law in relation to risk assessments on all bin routes,” said Mr Dawson. He said no risk assessments have been done on these routes.

“There will be a form of industrial action on Monday,” he confirmed.

“Management were fine with the proposals but it was the councillors who rejected them,” he said.

Around 50 members of the GMB were due to be sent ballots last week after negotiations regarding working hours and health and safety concerns collapsed.

However during 11th hour talks a deal was reached which was amicable to both Craigavon management and the unions.

The deal was brought to a committee of Craigavon Council on Monday night, however it is understood there was a unionist nationalist split on supporting the deal.

The meeting was held behind closed doors in a committee and the press were not privy to the discussions. However it is understood there was a recorded vote on the matter.

Two SDLP councillors and an Alliance councillor were not in attendance. The only parties voting on the matter were the DUP, the UUP and Sinn Fein.

It is understood Sinn Fein supported the management proposals.

New collections arrangements are due to take effect on Monday, March 11 in a widely publicised campaign by the Council.

Currently staff who collect council waste have been working a 37-hour week, which finishes at lunchtime on Fridays.

Cllr Carla Lockhart Mayor of Craigavon said: “The decision concerning Route Optimisation was taken in confidential business at Monday night’s Council meeting. I can confirm that a decision has been taken by Council concerning the matter and, as is the case with all decisions made by full Council, it will be implemented.”

And the Council has issued a press release reminding residents in the Borough of the new bin arrangements due to start on Monday.

“Information leaflets have been sent to each household to tell you what day your bin will be collected. Some may find that their collection day has not changed, however to remove any doubt it is important that you read the information leaflet delivered to your home. The leaflets also include a calendar for the year with holiday arrangements – so it is important to keep the leaflet letter safe.

The new bin routes mean that residents will always have their blue and green bins lifted on the same day but on alternative weeks. All households are asked to make sure their bins are available for collection by 7.30am on their collection day as the new rounds will also mean that your usual collection time is likely to change. Brown bin collections will remain the same so please continue to leave your brown bin out as usual on your current collection day.

The Chair of Council’s Environmental Services Committee, Councillor Gemma McKenna asked for the co-operation of local householders in the introduction of the new service. She explained “All households will receive a leaflet, some may find that their collection day has not changed, so it is important that you read the information leaflet delivered to your home. The new collection routes will provide a more efficient service, reduce the impact on the environment, and help us make savings on delivery, while at the same time maintaining the same level of service for all.”

Over the years the Borough has grown with new housing developments built and added in to the existing system accordingly. This has created a somewhat ‘patchwork quilt’ effect of 170 bin routes with some inefficiencies. The routes the bin lorries take have been redrawn to be more efficient and will make financial savings as well as reducing carbon emissions.

In addition, you can also check out your new bin collection day at www.craigavon.gov.uk/bincollectionday, email us at bincollections@craigavon.gov.uk or by logging on to our website www.craigavon.gov.uk, Facebook page www.facebook.com/craigavonbc or on Twitter www.twitter.com/craigavonc.

If you have any queries please contact Waste Management at the Central Service Depot on 028 3833 9031 and they will be happy to help.