Christmas strike action is planned by Veolia depot workers in Cheshire and there are fears that non-collection of waste will quickly create environmental health concerns.
Workers at the Ditton Road, Widnes, depot will be holding a series of 24-hour strikes over a pay dispute on 21 and 24 December, and 4 and 7 January.
They are complaining that their contracts require them to do five shifts in seven days, but they are not paid if they work a sixth shift within the seven-day period.
Companies in the local area that will be affected by the Unite the Union strike action include McDonalds, Boots, Wetherspoons and Asda.
Unite regional officer Steven Gerrard said: “It simply defies belief that Veolia thinks it is acceptable for workers to be unpaid for undertaking an extra shift.
“If an agreement cannot be reached then strike action will have a serious impact on rubbish collections from a number of well-known high street brands.”
He added: “Unite is committed to exploring all options to resolve the current situation and will remain open to talks up to and beyond the strike action. However, the company must come up with a reasonable offer to resolve the dispute.”
Unite the Union balloted workers to strike and, with a 92% turnout, returned a verdict 78.3% in favour of strike action and action short of strike action.
Gerrard said strike action was suspended after the ballot to hold talks with Veolia on 5 December, but that management “totally failed to address the concerns of our members”.
Phil Gilmour, regional director Veolia UK, said: “Veolia disputes that workers are not paid for hours that they work. We have a payment system guaranteeing 48 hours pay per week, even if the full 48 hours are not worked.
“It is disappointing that the union is planning industrial action, especially as this matter continues to be discussed with national officers of all the trade unions involved.
“In the event that the industrial action takes place, we will make every effort to mitigate disruption to our customers.”
Veolia was unable to say how often workers were asked to work more or less than the 48 hours and by how many hours.