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Union accuses council of ‘Scrooging’ on payment for road gritting

The joint unions GMB, UNISON and Unite have met with Carmarthenshire County Council to try and negotiate an increased payment for staff who grit the county’s roads.

In a statement issued today, Tuesday (Dec 10) the unions said: “All three unions GMB, UNISON and Unite met with the Director Of Environmental Services, Carmarthenshire County Council on Monday 9th December. Unfortunately the council which is led by Plaid Cymru refuses to significantly increase the retainer payment on offer. For an increase of £15pm in the retainer payment the council wanted us to call off the industrial action planned for the 18/19/20th December and to agree to conciliation talks with ACAS.

“The reason stated for being unable to offer more money was that Environmental Services had to make efficiencies (cuts) and therefore didn’t have any more to offer. We think the council should get its priorities right they found the money to pay an exorbitant salary to the ex-CEO for many years; they have wasted £100,000’s in the past on inefficient standby payments and may have wasted millions in the past by not having proper procurement procedures in place but they are not prepared to find a fraction of this to pay employees to do a hard and dangerous job keeping our roads safe.

“To add insult to injury the council are preparing to use private contractors to try in effect break the industrial action by using them to grit the roads instead. But this will cost the local authority far more to use contractors than what our members are asking to be paid. Why can’t they find the money to pay our members a decent retainer when they can find a lot more to pay contractors. The unions will be contacting and lobbying the private contractors or any other local authority that undertakes gritting in Carmarthenshire. All three unions will be taking industrial action on the 18th/19th and 20th December and there will be picket lines outside Llandovery, Glanamman, Cillefwr and Unit 10,Trostre depots on those days. While we have agreed to attend talks with ACAS and the employer but we do not think these will be successful unless the employer offers to increase the retainer payments substantially. Unless this happens far more substantial industrial action is on the cards after Christmas.”

The county council responded with the following statement:

Gritting operations in Carmarthenshire will take place as normal despite planned industrial action next week.

Two trade unions have informed Carmarthenshire County Council that their members intend to withdraw from overtime in a dispute over pay and conditions on December 18, 19, and 20.

The council has confirmed that contingency measures will be implemented to ensure that all gritting routes will be treated as normal should weather conditions create a risk of ice, frost or snow.

Trade union members taking industrial action have confirmed that whilst they will not undertake winter maintenance duties outside of their normal working hours, they will carry out other overtime operations to deal with highways issues, including fallen trees or floods, if and when required.

Carmarthenshire County Council has said it is disappointed about the continued dispute, but wants to reassure road users that they will be unaffected by the planned action.

Director of Environment, Ruth Mullen, said: “We are disappointed that we remain in dispute, despite having made a further increased offer that is fair and proportionate with other Welsh local authorities.

“This offer, rejected by the unions, is a payment to be on a weekly rota and is over and above what is already on the table. This is payable regardless of whether staff are called to work overtime or not, and on top of their hourly rate – which is paid at the top of their grade – if they are required to work out of hours.

“Our conversations with the trade unions continue, with conciliation being put in place to ensure these conversations come to a satisfactory conclusion as quickly as possible.”

She added: “Despite the industrial action, we have put contingency measures in place to ensure gritting operations will take place as normal to ensure the safety of road users.

“Whilst we do not wish to be in this position, we are keen to ensure that no resources are wasted and therefore the planning for this industrial action will be used to strengthen our contingency planning going forward.”

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