Eastbourne bin strike: Council offer rejected again and disputes over meetings

Eastbourne Borough Council has had its offer of a seven per cent pay increase rejected by the GBM Union again and both sides have made accusations around meeting to negotiate.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 2:01 pm

Following three days of action which has seen union representatives stop HGVs for leaving the depot on Courtlands Road, the council said its offer of a pay rise has been rejected again.

A spokesperson for the council said, “Earlier today (Tuesday, January 11) we wrote to the GMB Union reconfirming our offer of a seven per cent pay rise for drivers and three per cent for all other waste, recycling and street cleansing staff.

Eastbourne bin strike (January 7). Photo taken in Courtlands Road by Justin Lycett. SUS-221101-154021001

“This was again rejected by the GMB Union. They continue to demand 25 per cent.

“The offer we are making would achieve pay parity with drivers in Lewes. And as requested by the GMB Union, we also confirmed that our contractors will install a new shower facility at the Courtlands Road depot along with a new welfare unit.

“We have made it clear to the GMB Union representatives that we are keen to meet them, but disappointingly a date is still not confirmed.”

A spokesperson for GMB Union said, “Suspension of further walk outs and potentially avoiding rubbish piling up in the city’s streets was in the grasp of the council if they showed a real willingness to sit down for meaningful negotiations, instead they choose posturing and pretence ahead of resolution.”
The union said the council are delaying meetings to resolve the dispute and a meeting that was set to go ahead today (Wednesday, January 12) ‘simply has not been actioned’.

The spokesperson said, “A further offer to meet face-to-face on Thursday (January 13) at this time remains unanswered by council negotiators despite GMB offer to do so at any time or location.”

Mark Turner, GMB B50 branch secretary, said, “The council’s only focus appears at this time is to try to break the strike and blame the GMB for any and all inconveniences to the residents of Eastbourne.

“We hoped instead that they might choose to take responsibility themselves for this mess around a service they brought back under control of the council, even through the use of arm’s length privatisation and their having done since then little to improve low in work poverty pay rates for staff, whilst also ignoring the welfare of their own employees.”

Mark is visually impaired, which means face-to-face meetings allow him to get more involved in the discussions.

To this he said, “This though it appears is the latest sticking point for the council in our seeking to sit down to resolve matters, and while we spend and waste time just trying to get in a room to meet, the strike will run on.”

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said, “Our members have simply and rightly recognised their own worth, and now want and expect Eastbourne council, their employer, to do the same. The strike unfortunately and regrettably is a result of management’s failure to meaningfully engage in negotiations and a proposal which is both disrespectful and currently stands woefully short of being an offer able to end the dispute at this time.

“GMB will of course be waiting and when the negotiating management team decide that doing the right thing is important, we’ll be ready to meet, in the meantime our members resolve continues growing, and the strike goes on.”

To the allegations around delaying face-to-face meetings, a council spokesperson said, “Often during industrial disputes, the GMB Union make a claim that the other side don’t want to meet them. We do want to meet them.

“We have already met them and earlier this week offered to meet them again, in person today, in Eastbourne.

“Mr Turner has also said that meetings online using Zoom or Microsoft Teams are not suitable because of his visual impairment. We have offered telephone conference calls, but Mr Turner has also said that calls are not suitable.

“Our offers to meet online and over the telephone are in large part due to guidance on working from home and the risk posed by increasing Omicron infections.

“However, we will meet in person with Mr Turner if that is the only option open to him and welcome him to Eastbourne as soon as he is available.”