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Striking Huntingdonshire council workers ‘left with little alternative’

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Garden and bulky waste collections will be suspended across Huntingdonshire next week as the district council responds to a five-day strike by employees who are members of UNISON.

The country’s biggest public sector union has called the strike after claiming the council is failing to take their pay grievances seriously.

UNISON Cambridgeshire County branch secretary Rob Turner said: “Staff aren’t happy, and not enough is being done to resolve the situation.

“No one ever wants to go on strike. But these workers are being left with little alternative. They know local government staff in other parts of England and Wales have been offered more.”

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Mr Turner added: “Huntingdonshire’s employees aren’t asking for the moon. Just a fair pay increase that better reflects the rising cost of rent, food, fuel, energy and pretty much everything else as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

UNISON strike means Huntingdonshire District Council “have had to make the difficult decision to suspend garden waste and bulky waste collection services this during the period of industrial action”.

UNISON strike means Huntingdonshire District Council “have had to make the difficult decision to suspend garden waste and bulky waste collection services this during the period of industrial action”.

“The threat of strike action has clearly persuaded managers at the local authority to think again. It’s high time they made staff a much better offer.”

Cllr Martin Hassall, executive councillor for corporate and shared services, said: “We have made the commitment to rewarding staff fairly, and offering other benefits, whenever we are able to do so.

“Currently we are waiting to hear if our pay proposal is accepted, but if industrial action does go ahead, we have plans in place to minimise disruption to our frontline services.

“While we believe the majority of our services will be unaffected, some services may have to be prioritised at the expense of others and we would ask for the public’s patience.”

The council says “some” UNISON members will strike from Monday 21 August and to run until Friday 25 August.

A council spokesperson said: “Most services will run as normal with planning, housing, environmental health, leisure centres and many other services continuing to support residents.

“Refuse and recycling services will also continue but in order to deliver these statutory services, (which we have to provide by law), we have had to make the difficult decision to suspend garden waste and bulky waste collection services this during the period of industrial action.

“This means there will be no garden waste and bulky waste collection services from 21 to 25 August. Collections will resume from Monday 28 August.”

 

UNISON says earlier this year, the council gave its employees a pay rise of 4% plus a one-off payment of £1,000.

Then last month, council managers made some extra money available for a further one-off lump sum.

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“This was after UNISON launched a strike ballot of its members at the Cambridgeshire local authority,” said a UNISON spokesperson.

“But staff say this will still leave them struggling to make ends meet, and in a recent vote, opted to reject the proposal.”

UNISON has written to local councillors urging them to get involved and bring the dispute to a swift end by paying staff fairly.

The UNISON spokesperson said: “The union understands that senior managers at the council have now found yet more money and plan to make an improved offer to employees. Although the detail of this is yet to be shared with UNISON.

“The local authority is asking workers if they would prefer any wage increase as an extra one-off payment or added to their salaries but spread over several years.”

The spokesperson added that Huntingdonshire and several other local authorities are no longer part of national agreements regarding council and school pay.

“Earlier this year, the national local government employers offered staff a salary increase of £1,925 for 2023/24,” said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile council officials are asking residents not to put their garden waste bins out for collection during the period 21 to 25 August (inclusive) but to wait for their next collection day from 28 August onwards.

The council spokesperson said that as its bulky waste service is a bookable service, during the period of strike action, residents can still make a booking for bulky waste collections from 28 August using the online form.

“When garden waste services do resume, as usual waste crews will not be able to accept excess garden waste as we are unable to accept garden waste in sacks,” said the spokesperson.

“Dialogue with UNISON on the ongoing pay dispute will continue and any changes to service delivery will be publicised as soon and as widely as possible.

“Residents are advised to use this website, which will be kept up to date with the latest information The planned action follows unsuccessful annual pay discussions with UNISON.

“Council staff have received a 4% pay award for this financial year along with a further £1,000 one-off award to all contracted staff in March.

“The council has a offered a further payment to be made in December which would result in all contracted staff receiving at least the Real Living Wage in 2023/24. This addressed one of UNISON’s core requests, but this proposal has not been accepted to date.”

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