Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 19:09 UK

Fund set up for refuse collectors

Rubbish in Leeds
The GMB has launched a UK-wide appeal for financial support

A hardship fund has been set up for striking refuse collectors in Leeds.

The GMB union's executive said it will provide £10,000 to the fund and has launched an appeal to its 3,000 UK branches for financial support.

The move came as the union claimed Leeds City Council had failed to collect almost £17m in council taxes in the year to 31 March 2009.

The council said it made "every effort" to retrieve outstanding sums, and moves to collect the money were under way.

The strike by refuse collectors and cleaning staff, which is now in its third week, centres around a new pay and grading system for staff.

The council says it has to make pay for its male and female workers more equal, but refuse collectors say the plan will lead to their wages falling by a third.

The GMB said £10,000 would initially be given to the hardship fund and events would be held in support of the workers in the coming weeks.

Wage cuts

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: "The Lib Dem/Tory administration has failed the people of Leeds. Their negligence in not collecting nearly £17m in unpaid council and non-domestic rates heaps financial misery on the rest of the taxpayers of Leeds.

"This is in stark contrast to their attack on their own workers in the cleaning departments on whom they seek to impose huge wage cuts."

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said the authority collected over 99% of taxes owed.

"At the end of the year there will be amounts which are still outstanding but the council makes all efforts to collect these outstanding sums," she said.

"As such, our assumption is that these sums will be collected and therefore it is wrong for the unions to suggest that there are spare resources in this way."

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