South Tyneside Council calls on union to withdraw 'misleading' indefinite bin strike ballot

The GMB union is balloting bin workers in South Tyneside on taking indefinite strike action. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

South Tyneside Council has branded claims of trade union discrimination "entirely false" as bin workers vote on an indefinite strike.

In the latest development in the long-running dispute, the GMB union is balloting workers on continuous industrial action, following six previous strikes which led to some bin collections not taking place.

The union claims its workplace representative and other active union members have been suspended in what they describe as a "blatant case of trade union victimisation".

The council has called on the union to withdraw the ballot.

In total, the union says 10% of the workforce have been suspended and claim that workers are "being ignored" by council bosses.

Mark Wilson, GMB regional organiser, said:“Refuse workers in South Tyneside are at the end of their tether.

"This situation should have been sorted nine months ago.

“We are in this situation because council management thought suspending workers was a better idea than listening to their concerns. A blatant case of trade union victimisation.

"Any future disruption is entirely their doing. And is within their power to stop.”

Responding to the announcement, South Tyneside Council described the union's portrayal of the situation as "inaccurate and misleading".

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The situation has become completely untenable, and our residents are suffering due to the actions of the GMB.

“It is totally inappropriate for confidential HR matters to be aired publicly in this way and furthermore be used as a pawn in industrial relations that affect the whole borough.

“The GMB appear to be asking the workforce to make a decision based on misleading information whilst knowing that the Council cannot comment in any detail. The Council must maintain confidentiality for those individuals involved and ensure the integrity of the Council HR processes and procedures, which are designed to protect the employment rights of the workforce, are protected.

“We know there are improvements to make within the service and we want to push on and do the right thing for our staff, for our residents and for the communities we serve. This cannot be achieved whilst the service continues to be disrupted.”

The council says bin collection crews are currently only completing around 55% of their weekly rounds, which they say is in direct contravention of an agreement struck in order to pause to the strikes.

It says it has raised concerns with the GMB union around the degree to which they have encouraged and facilitated the workforce to comply with the agreement.

The ballot closes on Friday 14 June.

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