BATTLE lines have been drawn as binmen get set to strike over the Christmas period in defence of four fired workers.
The result of a ballot for strike action is expected at 5pm today (November 27) and Unite union believes it will get a yes vote.
Speaking before the result was announced, Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said the plan is to cause maximum disruption by striking in the period between Christmas and New Year.
The union hopes this will lead Veolia Environmental Services, which collects household waste on behalf of Bromley Council, to reinstate four men who were fired in October for gross misconduct.
Unite has said they were fired because they took away a bag of garden waste for a woman.
But portfolio holder for the environment Councillor Colin Smith says there is much more to it.
He said: “It is clearly Veolia’s job to manage Veolia’s staff in line with the HR policies and disciplinary codes they have previously agreed with the union, which in this instance, appear to have been breached in a very big way by the four individuals in question.
“Veolia have confirmed that we are not talking about ‘removing a bag of garden waste as a favour to a little old lady’ here, rather an estimated 12 black bags and two large industrial bags of garden waste as well as other items such as chairs from the property concerned, the total amount of unauthorised waste collected weighing approximately 400 kilograms.
“It’s always sad to see people lose their jobs, but when you are caught red handed completely ignoring the rules that your own employer and union have both signed up to, it’s very difficult to see what other choice Veolia had.
“What incentive and message would it send to the vast majority of hard working, rule abiding bin crews to see such a flagrant breach of the rules ignored?
“I would respectfully encourage all of those about to vote to carefully consider all of the issues and evidence involved, rather perhaps than just what they are being told, prior to committing themselves to the call for strike action.”
Mr Kasab, from Unite, said: “Bromley Council are in no position to offer anybody industrial relations advice in light of the fact that they are in dispute with their own workforce.
“All the men did was agree to help out a resident - for no cash reward.
“We have seen photographic evidence from Veolia which disputes the amount of waste claimed by the council.
“There was and always is a choice.
"No reasonable employer would have sacked these men - they had a clean disciplinary record, 100 years of service between them and just went the extra mile.
“We will now advise our members to never, ever touch anything that looks like excess waste. Let's see what effect this has on the service.
“Why are Bromley interfering in the internal disciplinary process of a private company - if they want this level of influence, they should stop privatising services.
“This interference now only makes a strike more likely - if our members vote yes, bins in Bromley will not be emptied this Christmas.”
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