Page last updated at 20:19 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 21:19 UK

Unions plan for long bin dispute

Overflowing rubbish in the Beeston area of Leeds
Talks aimed at resolving the deadlock began earlier this week

Unions have told striking refuse collectors in Leeds to plan for a long dispute in a council row over what it says are "crippling" pay cuts.

The GMB and Unison announced at a meeting that they were adding £50,000 to the strike hardship fund.

Representatives will meet with council officials on Friday for the fourth day of talks to resolve the strike.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told a meeting of members that the unions were planning for a long dispute.

Mr Kenny said details were being finalised for a benefit concert in Leeds on 18 October to raise money for striking workers.

I stand to lose £5,700... it's a big drop in my wage and we didn't take it lightly to go out on strike
Striking binman

"The event... will raise much-needed support for our members on strike in Leeds who face crippling pay cuts.

"Supporting the event is a way for people in Leeds to tell the Lib Dem/Tory administration that the proper way to introduce equal pay is to increase the wage of the women worker up to that of the men."

Speaking on BBC Radio Leeds, one striking binman said he was unable to meet his loan and direct debit payments.

He said: "I've got three children and they don't come cheap. They still want to go out with their friends and do their activities."

He added: "I stand to lose £5,700... it's a big drop in my wage and we didn't take it lightly to go out on strike but we all walked out together and we'll walk back in together."

Pay challenged

Talks started between unions and the council on Monday but both sides took time off on Wednesday to reflect on the progress of discussions.

As the talks broke up on Tuesday, Leeds City Council leader Richard Brett said: "These exploratory talks appear to be going well and that is good news."

The dispute was provoked by a "pay and grading" exercise undertaken by the council. It said this process was being mirrored in authorities across Britain.

It is aimed at ironing out historic differences between pay grades for jobs seen as traditionally male or female.

The result has been a wholesale reassessment of pay grades across the full range of council posts.

Mr Brett has challenged union claims that its members will lose as much as £6,000 as a result of the process.

He has said the average loss in pay would be less than £3,000 and no salary would change until January 2011.

The council has hired private firms to collect rubbish while the strike continues.

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