Waste collection workers in Central Bedfordshire could be set to strike according to their union, which says they have been met 'with contempt during pay and conditions talks'.
GMB London, which represents members employed by FCC Environment - contracted to provide waste disposal services in Central Beds - says pay and terms and conditions for drivers, loaders and street cleaners in waste and recycling services have deteriorated since the company was awarded the £188million contract.
GMB submitted a pay claim on behalf of members in March 2020 for the Real Living Wage for loaders and sweepers on minimum wage.
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FFC got back to GMB in October with an offer of 1.5 per cent, but backdated it from August, instead of April, the normal pay anniversary.
GMB claims this is the real reason for FCC’s problems collecting waste and recycling, not a shortage of HGV drivers - which is what has been told to the council.
Richard Owen, GMB London region organiser said: “Although the HGV drivers have recently benefited from an uplift in pay, this has only happened because of the current shortage of HGV drivers nationally, in contrast to the many loaders and street staff leaving in droves because they earn the minimum wage.
"The company use agency staff paid at higher rates - how can that be right?
“Our members have reported several health and safety issues, including poor toilet facilities, the presence of asbestos, unsuitable vehicles, unsafe manual handling, lack of risk assessments, as well as accidents and injuries that are not properly processed. Hardly consistent with the health and Safety Policy published on FCC’s website.”
GMB is calling on FCC Environment to offer better pay and conditions to employees in these waste services roles.
And it says if FCC refuses to recognise GMB, it will begin a short period of consultation with members with a view to conducting a ballot for industrial action.
A spokesperson for FCC Environment said: "FCC Environment began rolling out a new harmonised recycling and waste collection service across the whole of Central Bedfordshire in early 2020 to improve efficiency and deliver value for money, whilst also giving the council the opportunity to introduce new recycling services to residents over time.
"Throughout the pandemic, services have proved resilient thanks to the hard work of crews but the acute shortage of drivers currently affecting the whole of the UK is putting services under enormous pressure.
"As such, our focus remains entirely on maintaining services and meeting the needs of residents whilst rewarding and supporting our staff for the hard work they put in.
"The concerns detailed in GMB Union’s press release have not been raised with us, therefore currently we are unaware of any problems and cannot verify their accuracy.
"FCC will be reaching out to the GMB Union to arrange a meeting to discuss the matters mentioned in their press release and to gain an understanding of the issues that they have not previously formally bought to our attention.
"We would therefore urge the GMB Union to talk to us rather than seeking to conduct a negotiation through the media.
"In the meantime, we would like to reassure residents that we are doing all we can to ensure services continue to run smoothly and to avoid strike action."