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Union suspends strike action at Kier operation

The GMB union has halted planned industrial action at three Kier-run council waste service schemes following negotiations over health and safety pay and allegations of bullying and harassment.

A majority of GMB union Kier employees at Eastbourne, Hastings and Rother councils voted for industrial action in February.

Strikes scheduled for 12 and 13 March have now been called off, but the union said further days of action could still go ahead if talks break down.

The ballot covered 154 staff in three of the four local authorities involved in the East Sussex Waste Partnership.

It was instigated after claims of “bullying and intimidating attitudes of Kier management” and safety concerns about the bins used for glass recycling.

GMB senior organiser Charles Harrity said: “The suspension follows agreement reached during the negotiations around health and safety pay and bullying and intimidation. The company has put in place a number of measures which go some way to addressing the grievances of the workforce.

“The agreement to suspend the action only applies to 12 and 13 March. Should Kier Environmental not action its proposals as soon as possible, GMB members have made it clear at meetings this morning that they are prepared to take action on other days already notified to the company. Strike action is scheduled for 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 March.”

Kier maintained that safety and well-being were its “paramount concern”, and criticised the GMB for not supporting its management of safety incidents.

The company said five employees had breached its drugs and alcohol abuse policy and there was also a case of potential gross misconduct, bullying and intimidation within the workforce that it took a “zero tolerance” approach to.

A spokesperson said: “Kier takes the concern of employee well-being and health and safety very seriously and we have robust procedures in place to protect our people and address any concerns. We are committed to ongoing discussions and have met with the GMB on a number of occasions over the last few weeks to discuss issues that the union has raised and which we have responded to.

“Following a further meeting on 10 March a number of new minor issues have been raised and the GMB has suspended the planned industrial action for 12 and 13 March to enable us to resolve these.

“We are committed to following through on our proposals and therefore hope that the GMB will fulfil its commitment to cancelling the planned action in the next few weeks. We are dedicated to providing local residents with a full service and have a contingency plan in place should the GMB decide to continue with further action.”

* This article was updated on 12 March to include a full quote from Kier

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