A STRIKE by Bromley’s binmen is set to take place next week after an agreement for four fired workers to return to work collapsed.
Unite members will be striking on Monday and Tuesday about the issue of where the sacked men will be allowed to work.
The union had been planning to hold a series of strikes to impact on the Christmas collections but these were averted after crunch talks between Unite and Veolia Environmental Services hammered out a deal.
Under the terms of the deal the men, who were fired in October for breaching their contract by removing unauthorised waste including garden waste and car seats, would be rehired by Veolia.
Unite says in return the union agreed to not take strike action on the matter of unauthorised waste collections.
And instead it says it agreed to work with Veolia, which collects household waste on behalf of Bromley Council, to prevent a repeat of the situation that led to the dismissals.
Unite Regional Officer Onay Kasab says the fired men were due to return to work on Monday (January 14) until Bromley Council said it did not want them working on the council contract.
But portfolio holder for the environment Councillor Colin Smith says the council has always made it clear that if the men were to be rehired by Veolia they would not be able to work in Bromley borough.
A war of words has broken out
And now a war of words has broken out between the council and the union.
Mr Kasab (pictured above) said: “The strike action due to take place next week was needless because we had reached agreement with Veolia and Bromley Council.
“It is the council and Veolia which have caused a strike by not abiding by an agreement which gave them every concession they wanted.
“This unwanted, unnecessary and spiteful interference by Councillor Smith now means that strike action will take place.
"It is incredible that we can give every concession required of us, we can meet all demands made, including an undertaking not to strike on the matter of unauthorised collections in the future, but instead to work to prevent a repeat, we reach agreement with Veolia and meet every demand made by Bromley, yet two days before the four are due to return, Bromley, via Cllr Smith, have a change of heart and say no.
“But just as bad are Veolia, who had agreed that they would not abide by a red card, then on the day it is served, they say the deal is off.
"It is cruel and spiteful.
“The four were preparing to return to work on Monday on the basis of the agreement.
“I had to call all four and tell them that we had been double crossed.
“It was heartbreaking - the oldest serving worker in particular was distraught, having prepared all his work gear in advance and was excited about returning to where he had worked for over 40 years."
"We now call on all our members to take action, primarily to get justice for the four but now more importantly to show that Veolia and Bromley cannot make an agreement and then simply refuse to abide by it.”
Bromley Council says . . .
In response Cllr Smith (pictured above) said: “Mr Kasab’s latest attempt to re-write history really won’t do.
“I would start by reminding everyone that far from this incident being about the removal of a small amount of waste ‘as a favour’ for a resident without financial reward, it has now been established and admitted that some 880lbs of garden waste and two car seats were involved, as well that the crew in question did accept cash in hand for carrying out the job.
“That is as clear a breach of terms and conditions under the heading ‘gross misconduct’, sub heading ‘corruption’ within the union’s agreement with Veolia as will ever be found, that despite a number of warnings, over a period of time, as to the consequences of doing so.
“Despite that, the council has, as previously stated and reaffirms played no part in influencing Veolia’s right to manage their staff matters as they see fit and the fact that they have now decided to offer re-employment to the individuals in question bears testimony to that fact.
“What the council has said, consistently throughout to Veolia in line with the council’s contractual rights, is that if they do decide to take the men back, they will have to be deployed elsewhere from the Bromley contract as the council will not tolerate such behaviour locally due to deplorable message that would send to all the honest, hard working crews who do forgo temptation and abide by the rules and likewise local residents.
“It is also the case that there has been redeployment for the same offence in the not too distant past locally, so precedent has been established and the council’s position made absolutely consistent.
“I would offer a view that redeployment for a sackable offence is a pretty good deal for those involved under the circumstances and would again respectfully urge Veolia’s bin crews to please consider all the facts of this matter very carefully and to resist the call for this needless and seemingly ever more politically motivated strike action.”
News Shopper is in the process of obtaining a comment from Veolia Environmental Services about the dispute.