If you live in Brighton, you undoubtedly will have noticed the huge piles of rubbish near the bins on every street. You are probably wondering where it all came from, and why nobody’s taken it away. Well, we’ve got all the answers – here’s what’s going on with the bins in Brighton.
A two-week strike
On October 5th 2021, refuse workers in Brighton and Hove who belong to trade union GMB voted to participate in a 2-week strike. The strike was in response to changes in duties and the removal of refuse drivers from long-standing rounds. It appeared to the staff and the union that managers were changing the HGV drivers’ routes hastily and haphazardly, paying no attention to the stress that comes with learning a new route through a crowded city with an HGV.
At this time, Brighton and Hove City Council stated that it understood the reasons for the strike, but remained hopeful that the dispute would be resolved. This comes after the council saw the effects of a similar strike in 2013, which leaf to rubbish piled high throughout the seaside city.
Just under a week into the strike, talks continued between the council and GMB. A pay offer was suggested by the council, however, the union stated that it was less than had previously been offered, and their reps left the meeting.
Despite talks happening throughout the 2-week strike between GMB and the council, a further 2-week strike was called for the 21st October, with the council recommending that residents take their rubbish to the centres on the outskirts of the city, and store their recycling at home.
Huge piles of rubbish and resident anger
As the strike entered its second week, bins were piled high. Residents were complaining about the smell caused by the bins as well as the rubbish taking up pavement space. The council said that the situation was “appalling” and that they were “dedicated to getting this sorted out as quickly as possible”, but that the GMB’s demands would lead to cuts in other services.
The council began to plan for emergency clearance efforts but feared they would cause further issues if they bought in outside contractors. There is legislation that forbids the use of agency to replace striking staff. However, the council had to draft in contractors after the trash caused a ‘serious public health issue’.
At this point, Conservative politician Joe Mills compared the striking staff to terrorists, quoting Margaret Thatcher’s infamous line: ‘you can’t negotiate with terrorists’. He has since retracted his comment.
A resolution in sight
On the 20th October, the dispute was resolved at last when the GMB approved an agreement with the council. This addressed their concerns over management of routes as well as pay issues. The agreement will see over a thousand council workers receive an earned pay rise. The refuse workers have now begun to collect the backlog of rubbish.
However, the staff have said that collecting the backlog will likely take up to 2 weeks. Each site takes approximately an hour to clear up, and there are around 2,000 sites across the city with piles of rubbish to remove.