We have plans to change.
That’s the message from Kirklees’ top boss who oversees the bin collection service that is set to strike.
Karl Battersby, the director for economy and infrastructure at Kirklees Council, says he still hopes to avert a bin strike that has been called by Unison workers for June 4-10.
On Wednesday the council will sit down with Unison and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the hope of resolving the ongoing dispute between workers and management.
Today (Tuesday) Mr Battersby, who has been in the post since February, accepted there were issues the council needs to change - and he asked workers to draw a line under historic issues and have confidence in him to resolve the current issues.
What do you think of the strike being called for June 4-10?
“In terms of the notice we have been issued today (Tues) for strike action we feel disappointed, we feel we’ve been working well with workers and the unions to find solutions and that is ongoing.
“We have carried out an independent review into bullying and harassment claims and that had been extended for two weeks to allow all the unions and staff to put forward issues for us to look at.
“So I’m disappointed today to get this notice when we’re meeting ACAS on Wednesday.”
Workers say they have been unable to take annual leave. What is your response?
“People have had unused leave for some time. That’s not sustainable in terms of people not being able to take holiday nor us being able to deliver a quality service to our customers.
“The solutions include staff being able to take leave and extended leave for cultural reasons over a planned period and the ability to sell leave entitlement to get rid of the historic leave issue.
“We also recognise we need a better holiday booking system going forward.”
Workers say the bin rounds are not achievable and agency staff are needed. What are your thoughts on this?
Mr Battersby said there had been an independent review into the rounds and resources, adding: “We are reviewing the rounds in consultation with the unions and involving staff.
“Our staff are actually key to this. They have the local knowledge to make the system better.
“We’re not a million miles off. We accept there needs to be some re-jigging.
“There are differences in terms of the rounds between the depots (Huddersfield and Dewsbury) which are not proportional.
“Sometimes we’ve been dependent on circumstances too, such as weather, traffic and not being able to access streets because of parked cars.
“The vacancies in the service are being filled and we’re looking to over-recruit to provide additional flexibility.
“Ultimately we want to reduce our spend on agency as it’s more expensive.”
Unison has reported issues of bullying and harassment.
“Some are historic issues that have been dealt with and I ask staff to draw a line under it and move forward with us.
“Some are live issues, they’ve been classed as bullying and harassment but they are performance management issues, and others are genuine and justified.
“The council is committed to stamping out bullying and harassment. I won’t tolerate it in my service.
“I hope I have created an atmosphere where staff feel I have an open door. I’ve invited all staff to a meeting, some spoke openly and I’ve had about 30 others come forward to have a discussion.
“I want to give people as much opportunity to have their voices heard. I’ve visited, and will visit again, both depots.”
What do you hope comes from the ACAS meeting?
“I’d like to avoid industrial action.
“Where we have solutions we hope we can act quickly on them.
“The strike notice hasn’t prompted this, it was already in development and I hope I’m given the time to conclude this.”
What will residents’ experience be during the strike?
“Minimum disruption I hope. First and foremost we want to deliver a service to our customers.
“We’re working on a contingency plan if it does go ahead. I can’t provide the exact detail but we hope there will be minimal disruption.”
Were you surprised by the ballot?
“I think we were all surprised by the strength of feeling and disappointed in the proceeding action when we were making progress.
“The industrial action hasn’t spurred this action, it’s a distraction, but I’ll continue to work to resolve this.”
What’s your message to the frontline workers?
“I’m making a genuine attempt to resolve this.
“I support and value our frontline workers and want to make sure they have the resources to deliver the best service.
“I’m confident the council can resolve these issues.”