Somerset Council’s waste services are preparing for planned industrial action by some of the county’s waste collection crews.
The council was informed this week that members of the Unite union intend to start industrial action on Wednesday 12 July.
Talks continue to resolve the dispute, but contingency planning is underway to try and limit the impact on residents if it goes ahead.
Though all efforts would be made to limit the impact, industrial action is likely to cause widespread and significant disruption affecting the majority of residents in some way.
The planned action follows unsuccessful annual pay negotiations with Suez UK, the council’s collections contractor. An initial 5.8% increase has been rejected by the union and a recent ballot of Unite members was in favour of industrial action. A further offer of 8% from Suez has also been rejected.
The staff intend to strike Wednesday to Friday each week in the four weeks from 12 July to 4 August. On the other days of the week staff taking action would not work overtime or be involved in catch-up collections, for example on Saturdays.
Three-weekly refuse collections would be prioritised, along with clinical waste collections and collections from communal locations. However, there is no guarantee that these collections will take place on time.
Recycling collections would be affected to a much greater extent as their crews are redeployed to support the other collections. The scheduling of the industrial action means some residents could go multiple weeks without recycling collections.
At this stage we do not yet know how garden waste collections will be affected.
The disruption will also extend beyond the days of industrial action as crews will need to pick up extra, accumulated waste when collections restart.
Mickey Green, Somerset Council’s Executive Director for Climate and Place, said: “Talks are ongoing and we very much hope that industrial action can be avoided or resolved quickly.
“We know cost of living pressures are affecting everyone, including waste collection crews, but this action would have a big impact on residents across the county.
“We will continue to support Suez as it works to resolve the dispute, assisting where we can.
“If action is taken, we will make as many collections as possible, but some services will have to be prioritised at the expense of others and we would ask for the public’s patience.”
If industrial action does take place, the Somerset Council’s website: somerset.gov.uk/waste will be the best place for the latest information about disruption to service and advice on how to manage waste when collections are delayed.