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Union demands Brighton chiefs step down over waste service concerns

The GMB union is calling for the resignation of Brighton and Hove Council’s chief executive and head of environment following complaints of a ‘witch-hunt’ of shop stewards and claims of ‘incompetence’ that the union said could see the city’s recycling service shut down.

Cityclean is the council’s recycling and waste management service, also in charge of street and beach cleaning, and public toilets.

According to the GMB, bullying has taken the form of spurious investigations, grievances and suspensions. It argues that management has either supported bullying of its workplace officials and members  or at the least turned a blind eye to it.

The GMB has also claimed the Cityclean fleet is non-compliant with at least 60% of regulations.

According to the union, if the situation cannot be resolved, the council could be stripped of its operator’s licence by the Traffic Commissioners’ office, forcing the whole service to close.

The council admitted that safety standards had not been met but the issue was being dealt with.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said the union had been raising health and safety issues with the council for at least 12 months which, had the council looked into seriously, would have alerted it much earlier to some of the non-compliance issues it now faces.

The GMB is now calling for the resignation of chief executive Geoff Raw and Nick Hibbard, executive director of economy, environment and culture.

GMB B50 branch secretary Mark Turner said: “In all my time and historical involvement with Cityclean, involving all the various management structures and personnel I have come in contact with, I’ve never before seen such basic incompetence, which has led us to having the threat of having the city’s operating licence withdrawn and the service shut.

“In doing so, they potentially have endangered the livelihoods of every employee working within the service. They have only recently brought this to the attention of GMB because it appears they now require union reps and members’ assistance to get them out of a very deep hole with the Traffic Commissioners.

“It must be said that those will, of course, be the same union reps who have come under increasing unfair scrutiny and unsanctioned investigatory and reporting processes, or to give it its real name management bullying by the council over recent months.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to working with the trade unions. Providing safe public services for the city is our number one shared priority.

“In the past six months, we have undertaken a number of initiatives to make Cityclean a fairer and safer place to work, and have sought to involve unions wherever possible and where change has been needed.

“These initiatives are being led by the new assistant director of city environment, strongly supported by her director and the chief executive.

“As a result of recent changes in senior management at Cityclean, some serious issues have been uncovered which have required urgent action. We reject any claims of inappropriate action or processes against staff.

“Through the work of one of our new Cityclean managers, it was learned that the safety standards required by the Traffic Commissioners – the independent regulator of the commercial road transport industry – were not being met. The standards relate to the vehicles used by the city environment service and statutory staff checks.

“As is our legal duty, we reported this immediately to the Traffic Commissioners and jointly we agreed the immediate actions needed to meet the expected standards.

“Our progress is being reported regularly to the Traffic Commissioners.”

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