The council is to start a tendering process for the refuse service
A union representing striking Leeds bin workers has reacted angrily after a top council official suggested the city's waste services could be privatised.
The council has revealed it is to start a tender process for a contract to be awarded in 2011.
The current bin team are expected to work with managers to put in a bid for the right to operate the service.
The council has dismissed claims by a council official who told the BBC "the prospect of an in-house bid is shot".
Tony Pearson of the Unison union said: "This is an absolutely appalling comment, especially in the middle of this dispute.
"It appears that the council has already decided that it will not allow an in-house bid.
The indefinite action will continue until such a time as Leeds City Council gets round the table and brings something that is acceptable to our membership
Desiree Risebury, GMB
"The council seems to be hell bent on holding down wages because it would be attractive to a private bidder."
Councillor James Monaghan, executive board member for environmental services, said the council "has never been intent on privatising the refuse collection service".
He said the board had "agreed to market test the refuse collection service" after talks aimed at achieving an "efficient and improved service" broke down with the unions and the workforce.
He added: "This does not rule out working with the trade unions and workforce to achieve these challenges."
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.
Unions claim the council plans to cut refuse collectors' annual salaries by up to £5,000 from February 2011.
Desiree Risebury of the GMB union, whose members are also taking part in the strike, said workers had voted unanimously in favour of continuing the industrial action at a mass meeting on Thursday morning.
"The indefinite action will continue until such a time as Leeds City Council gets round the table and brings something that is acceptable to our membership," she added.
The council is to start a tendering process for the refuse service in Leeds
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