Following the decision of Cityclean workers to strike, Penny Thompson, Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove Council has issued an open letter for publication.
“First of all I would like to apologise and say how disappointed I am that we are now facing formal strike action for seven days beginning on Friday June 14 over our proposals to modernise our allowances system. We are still in a consultation period and we will be continuing to invite our unions in for meetings this week, to encourage meaningful discussion and avoid this action
“This has never been about savings nor specifically Cityclean. The proposals we have put forward will mean allowances are paid consistently and fairly to everyone across the council. At the moment there are unacceptable variations and we are required by law to make sure the system is fair and transparent. Whilst some staff will gain from our proposals, unfortunately some will see a reduction in their allowances, so we have offered compensation in these cases. It is in the best interests of residents, the city and our staff across the council to settle this longstanding and unresolved allowances issue.
“If planned industrial action does go ahead on Friday we will comply with the law and it will unfortunately mean more disruption to our refuse and recycling service. I would like to say sorry to residents for the problems we may encounter over the coming weeks and to assure you we will do all we can to minimise disruption. In reality our options are very limited; we cannot legally employ replacement staff to do the work of striking workers.
“However, this week we plan to remove as much refuse as possible. During the strike we would advise residents to put refuse securely in bins or containers. Wherever possible we would ask for recycling to be taken to one of the city’s rubbish and recycling sites which will be open longer during the strike. We hope that residents and visitors will assist us by taking their litter home from the beach, and help to minimise the build up of rubbish.
“Once again, I am very sorry that our service is being affected during these talks. We will keep you up to date with developments, on our website www.brighton-hove.gov.uk and through our contact centre. We are doing everything we can to find a resolution.
“I strongly urge the GMB to return to the negotiating table with a view to finding an agreed settlement.”
Commenting on the ongoing dispute, Labour and Co-operative Group Leader Cllr Warren Morgan has called on all involved in the Cityclearn dispute to avoid strike action planned for next week.
“We have a great deal of sympathy with those workers losing substantial amounts of money as part of this process. We do not wish to see any steps taken which escalate this dispute, and we again call for all parties to take part in immediate negotiations to prevent strike action. Residents are not responsible for the problem, and should not have to suffer with rubbish piling up outside their homes.”
“Of course we support the right of Cityclean workers to strike following a legitimate ballot. However we deplore the fact that it has come to this. We fundamentally disagreed with the decision of the Green Administration, supported by the Tories, to hand all negotiations to officers, right up to final settlement.
“The Council Leader and senior Green Councillors should be giving a lead on resolving the dispute, not standing back while bins go unemptied. The fact that the worst affected staff are in Cityclean will not have come as a surprise to officers or to Green politicians, who should have found a better way of minimising how much those staff lose in advance.
“We are now facing a strike that nobody wants, least of all residents. We would urge all concerned to continue with negotiations and to bring this matter to a swift resolution before rubbish again piles up on the streets.”