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Striking bin men try to embarrass new Lib Dem council

June 5, 2009

Bristol’s striking bin men staged a protest on College Green on Friday to coincide with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s visit to the city.

They are continuing their series of one-day strikes in the long-running dispute over pay. They have rejected a pay offer of 2.75% and are believed to want around 3.5%.

About 100 refuse collectors, drivers and street cleaners belonging to the Unite union gathered outside the council house on Friday lunchtime.

They waved placards, sang protest songs and attempted to disrupt Clegg’s congratulatory speech to victorious councillors.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristols Barbara Janke

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg congratulates Bristol's Barbara Janke

Union leader Pam Jennings also claimed the council’s tactic of bringing in temporary workers to cover those taking strike action would not work.

She said: “I understand that nobody had told the people drafted in that they were breaking a strike. So quite a few of them have turned round and gone home.

“We also believe some of them are agency workers. It’s illegal to fetch in agency workers in this way and we will be notifying the agency that they are breaking the law by being complicit in this action.”

The council’s current advice to householders is to put their waste and recycling out as normal on their usual day. They have said they will now prioritise collecting green and garden waste.

The council’s waste contractor SITA says it’s pay offer of 2.75% is “very fair” in the current economic climate. It has also agreed to further talks with arbitration.

The Unite union is currently balloting its members on whether to take part in the talks. The result should be known on Monday.

Friday’s protest was a reminder to council leader Barbara Janke that running the city council will not be easy, despite her new majority.

Speaking after her election victory, she said: “I don’t think we have hidden behind not having a majority in the past.

“When we were in power we delivered on swimming pools, on the budget, on reducing council tax, on waste disposal and recycling and that was in barely two years.

“We have a record and we just need the opportunity to deliver that.”

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