Bin strike averted

A STRIKE by binmen was narrowly averted during 11th hour talks between union representatives and council management on Tuesday.

Bin men threatened to take industrial action and ballots were due to be sent to members on Tuesday after negotiations on new working arrangements collapsed.

Around 50 members of the GMB union are now to be sent ballots on accepting new working terms and conditions.

It is understood the dispute arose after Craigavon Council announced new bin routes which are set to come into force on March 11.

However, the proposals prompted a battle with the binmen over a proposed change of hours.

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

However the council want the binmen to work a full five-day week.

Also, the union were in dispute with the council regarding a health and safety assessment of the new bin routes, which are due to come into effect in less than two weeks.

According to John Dawson, who is a full-time official with GMB, the council must have a full health and safety assessment carried out before change of route. However this has not yet been completed.

“The council want the binmen to work five equal days which is a change to their terms and conditions of work,” said Mr Dawson.

He said the union had sent out the ballot papers to ask members if they wanted ‘to take industrial action in relation to a unilateral change to their terms and conditions of work’.

And he said that while negotiations had broken down with management, revived talks late on Tuesday resolved some issues and now staff will work until 2pm on Fridays.

Mr Dawson added that the council has agreed to put in extra resources including a new bin lorry to cope with the new route plan.

“I am recommending that the workers accept this new offer,” said Mr Dawson.

He said staff felt the council had set out a wish list in relation to the new bin routes without having thought it through properly.

He said there had been similar issues in Armagh however there had been a good relationship between council and staff.

“They are working with the workforce so it can be done if it is done properly.”

Information leaflets are on their way to each household throughout the borough detailing what days bins will be collected including a new calendar for the year.

The council had asked that all households make sure their bins are available for collection by 7.30am on their collection day as the new rounds will also mean that the usual collection time is likely to change.