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Barking and Dagenham bin strike to last 'as long as it takes'.

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 May 2015

Members of the GMB union on strike

Members of the GMB union on strike

Archant

Fifty tonnes of waste were cleared from borough streets on the first of a 13-day refuse worker strike.

James Braund carrying out the controversial safety checksJames Braund carrying out the controversial safety checks

The council sent 17 emergency teams to combat rising rubbish, with one vehicle collecting 19 tonnes last Wednesday.

And almost 21 tonnes were collected over the weekend.

Keith Williams, a GMB trade union representative, joined Dagenham refuse workers on the picket line. He accused the council of violating a 28-year-old agreement by halving the time allowed for drivers to carry out safety checks on dust carts from 30 minutes to 15, meaning a £1,000 a year pay cut.

“You couldn’t afford to lose £1,000 a year – our members had no alternative but to strike,” he said. “We’ve had this payment for 28 years and now the council is trying to knock out this 15-minute safety check figure.

“We don’t want to be out on strike – but we are not willing to lose £1,000 a year.

“It’s the democratic right of workers to take industrial action, we’ll keep it up as long as it takes.

“The council has to end this dispute but Twomey (cllr) and Rodwell (council leader) don’t want to get round the table.”

He said the council was guilty of breaching health and safety, and that 30 minutes is needed to carry out a full safety check.

But on May 14, service manager for passenger transport James Braund, who teaches the check to drivers, invited the Post to see how long it takes.

“I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t work with these every day,” he said. “But I did carry out a check on a similar vehicle yesterday and probably do three a week.”

James completed the test, which involves checking oil, tyre tread, light operations and equipment, in just nine minutes and explained the process while doing so.

But Keith said his check didn’t reflect the reality of the job.

“He’s not carrying the check out at 5am,” he said. “It’s dark when we carry out these checks and there’s about 15 queuing up to fill their tanks.”

A council spokesman claims drivers are required to fill up at the end of a shift, to ensure vehicles are ready in the morning and refill queus are prevented.

He also said on-site lighting means checks can be carried out at any time of day.

And group manager of direct services, Tony Ralph, insisted the council is not breaching health and safety.

“We are not asking any driver to take an unsafe vehicle out,” he said. “The pre-start check is overtime on top of 35 hour week. We want them to do the check and we’ll pay them for 15 minutes. If it takes longer we’re not asking them to not do it, we’re saying it goes into their normal working day.”

Cllr Dominic Twomey said GMB is holding residents to ransom.

But Keith disagrees.

“The support we’ve been getting from residents has been great,” he said. “We have written to residents and apologised to them.

“But, when you’re fighting to keep £1,000, what else can you do?”

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