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Pension strike unlikely to hit waste sector

Strike action planned for the end of the month is set to cause only minimal disruption to waste management services.

According to local authorities and waste management firms, contingency plans will be in place to combat any impact of action on 30 November. A nationwide strike across the public sector has been called because of government plans to change pension schemes.

The level of potential disruption will vary across the country depending on union membership and the amount of waste management services which are outsourced.

In previous cases of industrial action, some local authorities kept disruption to a minimum by diverting resources from services such as collection of bulky or trade waste to doorstep collections.

The Environmental Services Association, which represents the waste and resource management industry, said the amount of disruption was difficult to predict.

Director of policy Matthew Farrow said: “It is hard to know in advance how severe industrial action will be, if it does go ahead. ESA’s members are well aware they deliver an essential public service and will work closely with local authorities to keep disruptions to a minimum.”

Industry sources said that there was the potential for some disruption for waste management firms trying to access sites and waste facilities.

It is also likely that, where council work has been taken over by the private sector and pre-existing union and pension rights were transferred, those waste firms could also become involved in strike action. MRW understands this to be a relatively small number.

A local authority source said: “Many councils rely heavily on agency staff who are not unionised so the actual proportion of staff that could strike is small.”

Birmingham City Council is facing a separate call for action following discontent over the introduction of a new operating model, which could see a week-long strike starting on 28 November.  

A council spokesman said less than 10% of its 1,100 staff in the fleet and waste management teams had voted for action in ballots by Unite and GMB.

He said: “The potential for industrial action is always regrettable but the council will make every effort to ensure contingencies are in place should any action occur - as it has done in the past on at least two occasions as recently as this summer when action relating to a wider range of service areas was staged.”

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