Kirklees bin workers have voted in favour for strike action.
The men and women who collect waste and recycling for Kirklees Council gave a resounding ‘yes’ to walking out - 85.5% of workers voted in favour, based on a turn out of 86.1%.
No date has been set for the seven days of industrial action.
The strike ballot was prompted by a series of allegations of bullying and harassment by managers towards bin collectors, the inability to take holidays and lieu days and grievances being ignored.
Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, said: “We’ve had three years of bullying, harassment and pressurising workers.
“If the bin workers took the holiday they’re entitled to the bins wouldn’t get emptied. There’s 23 years of holiday left between around 70 people.
“When there’s a personal trauma at home, somebody’s dying, children are injured and are at A&E, they can’t get half a day off.”
What is the industrial action about?
Kirklees Unison says its members have faced bullying and harassment at the hands of managers.
They have been unable to take annual leave, with some having more than ten weeks of holidays to take, while others have been refused special or unpaid leave to attend medical appointments.
They say the rounds are unachievable in working time.
Unison cited examples staff have faced:
1) 17 grievances submitted last November remain unresolved.
2) Bin rounds are unachievable in the working day of 7am-5pm. Workers say being offered overtime on Friday indicates the work cannot be done as Kirklees says it can.
3) Holidays being refused: The union says workers are already being turned down for annual leave in 2019. Collectively workers are owed five years worth of annual leave.
4) Denied lieu days, special leave or time to attend medical appointments: one worker, a dad, was denied holiday, special leave and unpaid leave to visit his daughter in hospital.
5) A man put a union notice on a union notice board. Senior managers watched CCTV to identify who had put the notice up, then brought the wrong person in for an interview. The union says Kirklees accepted it breached policy in watching the CCTV.
Details of the strike ballot:
Unison balloted 72 members and 62 papers were returned.
They were asked: “Are you willing to take part in industrial action in the form of strike action?” and 53 workers voted ‘yes’ - that’s 85.5%. Nine voted ‘no’ - that’s 14.5%. The turnout was 86.1%.
When will the strike be?
No date has yet been given. Unison has formally told Kirklees Council workers have a mandate to strike. They have to give 14 days notice, which has not yet been done.
Unison says its Industrial Action Committee will meet, members will be consulted and Kirklees will be given time to respond to avert the week-long strike.
What will it mean for the public?
Bins - both the grey waste bin and green recycling bin - will not be collected by Kirklees Unison members during the strike action. Kirklees may have the option to draft in agency workers to cover the rounds but there is expected to be disruption to bin collections.
What does the Union say?
Gary Cleaver, regional organiser, and Paul Holmes, Kirklees branch secretary, say the overwhelming vote in favour was no surprise due to the issues that remain unresolved.
Mr Cleaver said: “Our workers will take strike action with a heavy heart, but with so many people voting ‘yes’ it shows the strength of feeling.
“It is, perhaps, the biggest decision for a worker to decide to take strike action an go without pay. They’re not doing this for nothing.”
Mr Cleaver said Kirklees needs to take prompt action: “They need to commission and urgent investigation. We believed that was being done and had been launched in November. By March it was obvious nothing had been done.
“We feel for this to be impartial three or four managers need to be taken away from the service until the investigation is complete.
“The ball is now in Kirklees Council’s court, if they want to avert lengthy strike action they need to be meaningful in their response.”
What do the bin workers say?
Mike, a bin worker of 14 years, voted ‘yes’. He is a health and safety officer and the lead union steward for cleansing.
He said: “This is not the fault of the workers who collect the waste. We don’t make the rules, we don’t decide what can be tipped.
“We’ve faced a disregard for grievances. Workers have faced bullying, harassment and intimidation.
“We know people won’t be happy not having their bins emptied, we’ll look like the bad guys, but how many people would be happy going to work to face bullying every day? How many people would be happy being refused holiday?
“The bins are only being collected because we’re working our holidays.
“The public can contact councillors to put pressure of staff to bring a satisfactory resolution.”
After Clr Sheard told BBC Radio Leeds he thought the service was working well, Mike said: “Someone isn’t telling him the whole truth.
“No-one votes for strike action over nothing. Kirklees has had six months to respond to grievances, we’ve heard nothing.
“We hope the public will see we’re not doing this lightly and support us.”
What does Kirklees Council say?
Karl Battersby, Strategic Director Economy and Infrastructure: said: “It is disappointing that Unison has balloted its members at this stage, and while they have indicated there will be some period of strike action, they have not yet confirmed when this action will take place.
“I can assure the public, the unions and their members that we do not tolerate bullying or harassment and take allegations of this nature very seriously. Any allegations are dealt with through the relevant council procedures.
“We are aware of the concerns raised by some of our employees, and as a result we have commissioned a review of the cleansing service to make sure we can continue to deliver the best services for our residents and the best conditions for our workers.
“We are continuing to work closely with union representatives to make sure that all concerns are addressed as part of this review, which is why we are disappointed that Unison have taken a ballot at this stage. I am still hopeful that we will resolve their concerns and avoid industrial action and disruption for our residents. The other unions involved have not balloted.
“Obviously, until a formal notification is received from Unison, our services will continue as normal and residents should continue to place their bins out for collection on the usual days.”