Bin men in eleventh-hour poll over in-house plan

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A LAST-minute poll of bin men is being carried out by the city council to get assurances they would be willing to accept £45 million of cuts.

All 274 members of the refuse collection service have received letters asking them if they will accept the savings that are part of an “in-house” alternative to handing the jobs to the private sector.

The poll has been organised by council officials, with the assistance of trade union leaders, to show councillors whether the workforce that carried out industrial action for two-and-a-half years will accept major changes to their jobs if it means they will remain public sector workers.

Staff have been asked to return the forms by tomorrow, with the results due to be presented to councillors on Thursday ahead of their decision on whether to outsource the “environmental services” contract, which also includes street cleaning and ground maintenance, to Enterprise.

The move comes despite trade union leaders having already received verbal backing for the in-house bid from members of staff at workplace meetings.

Ian McDonald, regional officer for the Unite union, which represents most of the city’s bin men, has recommended members return the form to their employer and back the in-house bid.

He said: “I hope it will provide further support to the trade union view that things are moving forward positively and that our members will support the in-house option.

“We will fight to the last step because this is very important to members.”

Union leaders believe the worker survey is not necessary as the staff have already confirmed, through a joint union statement, that they back the in-house bid.

Peter Hunter, regional organiser of Unison, which is heading the joint trade union campaign against the proposals, said: “There is a lot of enthusiasm and optimism there that has not been there for a couple of years so it would be a shame to damage that. We do not feel this is necessary because we reported the results of the poll.”

Consultants from Ernst & Young said in an official council report they had “low to medium confidence” the in-house savings could be successfully made.

Council chief executive Sue Bruce has recommended councillors approve the Enterprise bid, which would save the council at least £51m over seven years.