BIN men in the Capital today announced an end to two-and-a-half years of industrial action – in order to stave off the threat of their jobs being privatised.
Trade union leaders today confirmed that workers have agreed to end the “work to rule” and overtime ban that was first started early in the summer in 2009 and has cost the city millions of pounds.
Staff have confirmed that they will accept the most recent offer made to them by council managers, which was originally rejected following a ballot.
The news is a boost to a joint trade union campaign opposing the city council’s controversial plans to outsource a series of “environmental services”, including refuse collection and street cleaning to private firm Enterprise.
The city has already used private contractors, which were brought in to help out during the dispute at a cost of more than £5 million. The council said it has been offset by “savings” such as not paying its own staff overtime.
The potential difficulty in persuading staff to accept the £45m of savings that were part of the “in-house” alternative to privatisation was seen as one of the main risks of the outsourcing proposal.
A joint letter to the council from the Unison, GMB and Unite unions today confirmed that members have voted “overwhelmingly” to back a statement agreeing to end the dispute and insisting they “recognise the need” for new work systems across the service, such as new bin collection routes.
Peter Hunter, regional organiser for Unison, which has fronted the joint union campaign, said: “They were worried about the prospect of large-scale redundancies with Enterprise.
“They have lost money so they’re not happy about that but they recognise that, in the current climate, their terms and pay are better protected by trying to work with management in making the service as efficient and effective as possible.”
Mr Hunter said that the workforce proving they were behind the in-house bids and the cuts that are part of it was a “critical” issue ahead of the vote on whether to outsource the services on November 24.
The Labour and Green groups last month voted to back the in-house alternative, while the SNP had indicated that it would also back it but agreed to a one-month delay in order to give its Liberal Democrat coalition partners to assess the information available.
If the SNP votes with the Labour and Green groups, the plan to outsource the services to the private sector will fail.
Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “There is no reason that I can see for any party that was even wavering to support the private sector bid when it comes back to council.”
However, council officials felt differently. Mark Turley, director of the services for communities department, said: “We welcome an end to the dispute.
“However, in order to make the service competitive, fundamental changes are required to productivity, working practices and working patterns and we have seen no commitment to making these changes.”