Our bins are overflowing, our streets are a mess. Worse, it’s not the first time this has happened in recent years.
I want you to know in no uncertain terms that I find this situation as appalling as you do. Even though I have no control over our local services because things like refuse collection is the responsibility of the council, I want you to know that I’ve met with council bosses and make perfectly clear the strength of my feeling on this.
Industrial action of this nature is the result of failure. It’s the end of the road and to have got to this point many opportunities to change course will have been missed.
I have been aware of ongoing problems with the service for some time. Refuse workers have had growing frustration with changes forced on them at short notice, with pay and other aspects of the organisation’s management. The council similarly has frustrations and have been keen to make changes to the way staff and resources are allocated, sometimes at short notice.
But this has been going on for ages. If things continued to head in the wrong direction then creative thinking should have been applied and a new way forward should have been found. For example, faced with a similar situation, the last Labour administration brought in a fully independent facilitator to which it agreed to be bound. It lead to swift resolution of a complex situation and averted the threat of all-out strike action.
It frustrates me so much that the current Green administration seems incapable of acting with the same degree of flexibility and creativity in the face of such an important issue.
The ballot for strike action generated 100% support on 80% turnout. It is within the law and workers are exercising their right, but it should never have descended to the point where the industrial ‘nuclear option’ should have been needed in the first place.
This situation is good for no one. It’s lose-lose. Refuse workers have lost two weeks of pay in an economic climate that is really tough for workers and their families. Every resident and visitor in our city is faced with rubbish piled high and drifting across our neighbourhoods. It’s disgusting.
And as for the Green Party, once again their reputation as a party capable of running an authority is in tatters. In the last 18 months they’ve cut down Europe’s oldest and longest ‘green wall’, turned the desirable goal of making cycling easier and safer into an issue that divides communities against each other, and once again failed to get rubbish and recycling cleaned from our streets.
It’s really hard to understand because the Greens seem to be really bad at the very things you’d assume they care most about.
No one wins from this situation, but it must be brought to an end without further delay. More of the same won’t work and will lead to more suffering, so I’m calling on the council to offer a new way forward and for the GMB union to be open minded if they do. Disputes like this provoke huge anger and resentment among those negotiating, please don’t let this get in the way of a solution because residents across our city are counting on you.
I will continue to engage with council bosses to make your voice, concerns and frustrations heard loud and clear. I stand ready to help in any way that could possibly make a difference. Like you I want this horrible situation resolved and will be whatever it takes to get us there.