Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 13:49 UK

Bin workers reject new pay offer

Workers react to the result of their ballot

Striking refuse collectors and street cleaning staff in Leeds have rejected a new offer which the city council hoped would put an end to a dispute over pay.

The strike, now in its seventh week, will continue after 92% of union members voted to reject the deal.

The council said the new offer would have meant an annual pay cut of £231 for refuse collectors, whereas they originally faced a £4,491 salary drop.

But the unions said some of the productivity targets were unachievable.

Other staff involved in the dispute, including bin lorry drivers and street cleaning workers, were offered pay increases as part of the deal.

The council made it clear that this offer was the only one on the table
Richard Brett, council leader

Leeds City Council said the offer was conditional on union agreement to review collection routes and "increase productivity".

Under the deal, refuse collectors would have received an annual salary of £18,706 and drivers would have earned an additional £1,618 a year.

The council said about 90 street cleaning workers would have gained an extra £378 every year. Gully tank attendants, who initially faced a £1,755 yearly fall in their pay, would have lost £52 a year.

'Designed to fail'

Tony Pearson, regional organiser for the union Unison, said: "The offer includes an expectation that staff will increase the number of properties they collect from - from 190 to 220 per hour.

"The people who do the job say that target is physically impossible to achieve."

Desiree Risebury, GMB regional organiser, said: "From the start we have always said we were prepared to work longer to achieve productivity improvements to the service but it is just physically impossible for them to work faster.

"Everyone has seen the speed at which the bin crews operate and know this target cannot be reached. This offer appears to have been designed to fail on this basis which is why members voted to reject it."

Council Leader Richard Brett said: "I simply do not understand why workers have rejected what was an excellent offer.

"With hard work we had found a way of addressing the pay gap for the majority of staff which was the primary reason given for the strike in the first place.

"Therefore, it's clear to me now that the dispute is no longer principally to do with money, it's about productivity and efficiency."

Mr Brett added: "The council made it clear that this offer was the only one on the table."

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