Rubbish piling up and litter strewn across streets as South Tyneside Council bin strike continues

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Bins are overflowing and rubbish is scattered across the streets of South Tyneside as industrial action continues.

South Tyneside Council launched an independent investigation into grievances raised by refuse operatives, which the GMB union say included claims of bullying and mismanagement, in June. The investigation into the claims concluded in November 2023.

The strike - which means the next collection is 26 January - follows previous action in November, December and earlier this month.

The unions are warning of more strikes in the coming months, over what they say is an "accumulation of years of intolerable working conditions".

The unions have said new housing has increased the workload of refuse collections, without extra staff or bin lorries, and allege they have been served disciplinary notices for helping elderly people while completing their rounds.

The council told ITV News that the “original collective grievance, submitted in June 2023, did not include any allegations of bullying and mismanagement. The collective grievance specifically cited finishing on time, size of rounds and said that it sought consistency in the way leave was allocated.”

Rubbish is littering residential roads. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A GMB spokesman said: "GMB members are extremely disappointed that we have not been given a copy of the independent report that we were promised, instead we’ve been given a whitewashed report written by the Head of Service, Stuart Wright, who in our view is biased and not impartial.

"We’ve also had no contact or offers from South Tyneside Council to meet to resolve the dispute so the action goes ahead this week again. 

"Our members are angry that the council appears to be denying that any bullying exists, instead of sitting down and working out how we can resolve the problem and get our members back to work.

"We have been told if we share the report with anyone they will deny us the right to appeal against the outcomes of the Wright report."As the action we’ve taken seems not to have triggered any response from management or the elected members of the ruling party, we are now considering our next steps and cannot rule out indefinite action being taken in the near future."

Bins in back streets are overflowing. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The council responded to some of the allegations made by the GMB union by saying it has "always been clear that the independent investigation report would be considered by the Director of Place and Communities in reaching his decision on whether the grounds of the grievance are upheld, and this reflected the applicable council policies. That report was considered, and the outcome of the Director’s report was shared with Trade Unions and each of the individuals involved in the grievance in January 2024.”

The council added that it had made clear to the unions “that if any of the contents of that report were shared publicly, there was a potential for the appeal process to be compromised. The council thought that this was well understood by all parties. The GMB’s actions may put at risk the viability of any appeal process.”

South Tyneside Council has added more slots at Middlefields Recycling Village. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Residents are being advised to present both their recycling and household bin on non-strike days when one will be collected, which the council say will help to minimise disruption.

There have been more slots added at Middlefields Recycling Village, however as of Tuesday afternoon, the first available slot was on Monday 29 January.

The refuse service supports 72,000 households across South Tyneside, emptying 6.2 million bins every year.

A Unite spokesman said: "Unite will continue to support members who are seeking improved industrial relations, in this dispute with South Tyneside Council."

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