A GRITTING dispute has hit Huddersfield.
Fears over road safety are rising after all of Kirklees Council’s gritter drivers said they would not be working this winter.
Around 60 of the council’s highways workers are normally given the opportunity to put their name down for the gritting rota.
But Unison chief Paul Holmes revealed none would be signing up this year following the introduction of a new pay policy.
The council’s new standby policy means that drivers would only be paid from the minute they begin gritting.
They would not be paid for preparing the wagons or driving to remote gritting locations.
He said that previously, workers could volunteer to go on standby and would then be paid from the moment they were called into action.
With the 24-week gritting season beginning this week, the decision could leave thousands of miles of Kirklees roads completely exposed to snow and ice.
Mr Holmes said: “The council have got no cover at the moment.
“Pest control workers get paid from the moment they set off, but not gritters.
“If a gritter driver gets a call at 3am and then has to travel to the depot at Honley and then drive to Outlane it could be up to an hour before he starts gritting, maybe longer.
“They will be extremely exposed as Kirklees is the largest authority in England in terms of roads to cover.”
Mr Holmes said union officials would be meeting with the council tomorrow to try to resolve the matter.
The stalemate comes after it was revealed the council had only budgeted for five days of gritting this winter.
And a report by the Local Government Association (LGA) last week revealed that Britain risked grinding to a halt if it suffers another severe winter.
The report said that while it may not be a good use of council taxpayers’ money for councils to stockpile more salt, the UK was almost entirely reliant on just two companies for supplying grit for the roads.
The LGA criticised salt suppliers for failing to admit that they were struggling to meet demand during last year’s crisis, as this would have allowed councils to find alternative supplies.
The report was also critical of the way the cold snap at the beginning of February this year was handled.
Kirklees came under criticism from residents for its poor gritting service during the wintry spell in early February.
The LGA report also criticised the quality of the service that train and bus companies were able to run and said businesses could have done more to prepare for the severe weather.
A spokesman for Kirklees Council, said: “We are in contact with the union on this matter, and those negotiations are still ongoing.”