By Jasmine Crowhurst, News sub-editor
GMB Union members in Eastbourne had taken industrial action on 3 individual days: December 31, January 7 and January 10. The Strike continued on Friday 14 January, with industrial action set to last a full week this time.
The first of three days of strike action began in Eastbourne on New Year’s Eve. HGV drivers and other workers joined a picket line outside the depot on Courtlands Road on the morning of Friday, December 31.
The Council said the strike, which left residents with uncollected rubbish on New Year’s Eve, was “wholly unnecessary”.
The Union estimated that rubbish collections have been disrupted for around 50,000 residents in East Sussex.
The GMB Union says the row with South East Environmental Services, which is owned by Eastbourne Council, is over pay and safety issues.
On Wednesday 5 January, Eastbourne Borough Council offered a 7 per cent pay increase to pay to drivers and a 3 per cent increase to all other South East Environmental Services Limited staff (SEESL). However, the union continued to hold out for an offer closer to 20 per cent.
GMB met with council bosses on January 6 where they offered drivers approximately £12.30 per hour – a far cry from the drivers’ claim for £13.50 per hour – still considerably lower than the industry standard.
The Council then made a public statement outlining the deal, which the GMB union said was a misleading public statement as drivers were yet to vote on the new offer and the Strikes continued.
On Friday, 14th January, a vehicle was blocked from leaving the depot. A spokesperson for Eastbourne Borough Council called their actions “unlawful”. They added “In addition to this, it is wholly wrong that a trade union is prepared to prevent people who want to work from collecting the refuse and recycling from local homes”.
The Council reported that only 19 out of 88 staff are involved in the Strike Action, and that Sussex Police are closely monitoring the situation.
The Trade union GMB and the Council had a meeting at 10.30am on Monday, January 17.
A council spokesperson said, “The GMB union is considering our latest offer.”
“We hope that they will reconsider our seven per cent pay rise offer for drivers and three per cent for all other staff.”
“We believe this is a very generous offer in the current climate and follows other pay rises staff have received since the council took over the waste, recycling and street cleansing service.”
According to the Council, a seven per cent pay rise would achieve pay equality with drivers in Lewes.
The council confirmed that contractors will install a new shower facility at the Courtlands Road depot along with a new welfare unit.
GMB Organiser Declan Macintyre made a statement voicing the intentions of the Drivers in Eastbourne. “The last thing these drivers want to do is strike – and they are so sorry about the impact this will have on the people of Eastbourne – but the barbaric working conditions they suffer leave them with no choice.”
The dispute continues between Eastbourne Borough Council and the Union amid bin collection strikes in the town.
Editor Note: Details are correct as of time of writing 17/01/22.