Strike threat over bins dispute
FIFE Council is set to push ahead with controversial new evening bin collections in the face of "determined" opposition from staff.
Trade union members who have voted against the changes are angry that the council is going ahead with the plan.
In two separate ballots, Unite members have voted against the proposals but have now received letters saying the changes will be introduced regardless of their opposition.
The council says it is extending bin collection hours to make the most of expensive lorries and reduce the number of vehicles it owns to save £800,000 a year.
Refuse collectors will work in shifts from 6am until 9pm with the majority of bins collected by 8pm.
The changes were agreed under the previous administration but the new incoming Labour-led council has not ditched them.
The council has written to all workers involved to explain that the service changes will be implemented in October and asking them to agree individually to the new terms and conditions.
Unite regional officer Richard Whyte told the Press, "I have to say our members are in determined mood and have rejected in a second ballot the change to their shift patterns.
"It's disappointing that letters were issued to our members saying this will be introduced in October and that they have issued a press statement.
"We had agreed to take this into internal dispute processes, continue dialogue and we also agreed to a council request not to make statements to the press.
"We have acted in good faith and in the interests of good industrial relations but we find they appear to have acted in bad faith or at least in complete contradiction of what we had agreed.
"Nevertheless, we will continue with the internal disputes procedures dialogue.
"Our members will ignore the letters and we will prepare if necessary to hold a legal, formal ballot on industrial action."
Fife Council leader Alex Rowley said, "Everyone knows the council faces a difficult challenge with massive budget reductions ahead.
"We want to meet this head-on by reforming services rather than cutting or privatising them.
"The changes to bin collection arrangements are about making our operations as efficient as possible, keeping people in jobs and maintaining a high level of service for Fifers.
"Introducing shift working allows us to do all these things and I've had an absolute guarantee the £800,000 savings we need to make will be achieved through these changes.
"We recognise that refuse collectors make a huge contribution to public services, playing a part in everyone's life.
"And while new working hours may have a big impact on some people's personal arrangements we believe it is better to reorganise our services so that they can all continue their valued role, rather than outsourcing refuse collection as some councils have done.
"I have spoken to managers about how we're addressing the concerns voiced by staff and trade unions over the new shift arrangement and we have sought to reassure them on the points they've raised.
"We are committed to fair and equitable terms and conditions for employees and hope to introduce the living wage of £7.20 per hour to benefit hard-working staff on the lowest pay scales across the council, although this would not affect these workers.
"Currently refuse collectors get paid between £8.57 and £9.65 per hour and drivers get between £9.65 and £10.73 per hour.
"Under the new arrangements their total pay will increase for working some unsocial hours on shifts.
"Annual earnings will increase from £18,114 to £19,019 for a collector and from £20,142 to £21,149 for a driver.
"Employees also suggested an early finish on Friday evenings and a commitment was given to look at ways to introduce this.
"When balloted, the majority of GMB and UNISON members accepted the proposals but 65 per cent of Unite members voted against it.
"As there's no collective agreement we've written to all employees involved to explain that the service changes will be implemented in October and asking them to agree individually to the new terms and conditions.
"However, I intend to write to the unions again to say our door is always open and we will continue to work closely with them.
"I also intend to write to every member of the workforce involved in the new arrangements to assure them we recognise the contribution and service they give and to let them have a copy of this statement.
"I've already met with staff in one depot and hope to meet the other teams across Fife in the coming weeks too.
"I sincerely hope we can move forward with a common purpose; to provide good terms, conditions and wages for employees whilst having the flexibility to reform public services to meet the changing needs of people of Fife whilst facing up to the financial pressures on public services."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 13 Jul 12
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jul 13, 15:57
before they start shifts perhaps they can be trained in putting the bins back properly, before the lorry comes all the bins are standing neatly on the pavement, after they are emptied they are thrown all over the place, it is like an obstacle course getting passed them, not everybody is at home to take them in at once, some people work.
Recommend? Yes 13 No 1
Jul 13, 16:46
Jul 13, 18:52
the above certainly hit the 'bin' on the heid!
Just what are we paying our council tax for?....certainly not that wumman to take dunfermline forward..This town has been in reverse gear for decades and in the current climate it will take decades to change it1...O.K. you may say if I don't like it get out of the place..believe me I would love to..but there is something called finance and jobs..Yes?
Recommend? Yes 10 No 2
Jul 15, 15:01
Whilst I am sympathetic to the problems of the staff affected by changes to their employment contracts, and its impact on their lifestyles, this article ignores another massive potential impact on Fifers.
ie Just exactly when are Fife Council going to consult those residents who might be affected by such proposals to change their bin collections from daytime pick-ups to pick-ups as late as 8pm or 9pm?
This appears to be another example of Fife Council Officers and Councillors making a determination and telling us rather than asking us.
Democracy? Don't make me laugh!
Recommend? Yes 5 No 0
Jul 16, 14:40
It is saving me and all tax payers money. Get real guys, you will receive more money, your unions agree, I have no problem with later uplifts, most people I know work shifts. This is not the 1950's where minimum effort for maximum reward is expected, take some pride and responsibility in the valuable role you make in our society.
Recommend? Yes 0 No 3
Jul 17, 03:58
Well why is there drastic cuts now? I could suggest something but i would not embarrass my own mother this way...she worked up close and personal and saw a thing or two in her time..she is now 76 and retired obvioulsy but same thing that has gone on in any personal gov offices to this day....well them guys certainly had a huge part in the way that things have turned out now i'd guess! Poll tax intro was like xmas every day for the council/councils...and..who is payin for it all now?
Recommend? Yes 2 No 1
Jul 17, 22:57
According to the council 95% of all residents questioned agreed this was a good idea. Just wonder how many were questioned and who they actually were because I wasn't asked either. So much for transparency!
I know I for one am not looking forward to large lorries reversing down my street in the dark of winter. I can hardly park my car in my street during the day so I just don't know how they think they they'll get down here at night!
I just hope that the projected savings are not cancelled out by the insurance claims that will probably go in when those lorries start hitting parked cars. Sorry i know council drivers are pretty good drivers and I really hope there are no accidents, but come on I can't believe you really expect them to reverse down dark streets in winter weather. Especially with the low level lighting we have in the streets nowadays.
Recommend? Yes 1 No 0