Council accuses GMB of holding Barking and Dagenham to £700k ‘ransom’

The GMB are accused of holding the council "to ransom".

The GMB are accused of holding the council "to ransom". - Credit: Archant

Barking and Dagenham Council have accused the GMB of holding it “to ransom” by demanding almost £700,000 for refuse drivers, as workers today embarked on an eight-day walkout.

Two of the three unions caught up in the dispute, Unite and Unison, agreed a settlement with the council yesterday, following three days of talks at ACAS.

But borough bosses claim the GMB want a £5,000 one-off payment for its members and a guaranteed 20-minute overtime window at the start of each day for safety pre-checks.

The comments come as the planned eight-day strike began this morning – the longest yet in the standoff between unions and council.

“The GMB want a £5,000 one-off payment for each driver plus 20 minutes overtime which is clearly irresponsible at a time when we have to make significant savings and is not in the best interest of our residents,” said deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance Cllr Dominic Twomey

“It would cost the council £690,000 in one-off payments alone when we have to make £39m savings over the next two years.

“There is no way we will let the GMB hold us or our residents to ransom.

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“That £690,000 is the same as funding two big children’s centres and all our satellite centres or one of our flagship libraries – Dagenham or Barking Learning Centre - or two of our smaller ones.”

Yesterday’s settlement with the two other unions involved a reduction in overtime from half an hour to 15 minutes, and a one-off goodwill payment of £500 net for the average driver.

The council also agreed to push back the start date for implementation from July to November and stressed that refuse drivers’ terms and conditions will not be looked at again for two years.

Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary for public services, said of this week’s talks and the agreement with Union and Unite: “I just don’t understand what those unions are doing, colluding with the council leadership to undermine an official strike.

“I do know what London Borough of Barking and Dagenham management are doing – splitting the unions to try to divide and conquer. It won’t work.

“GMB members who have been striking to protect their pay will be incensed by this attempt to stab them in the back by the council and the other unions.

“If anyone thinks this will weaken GMB or our members’ determination they can think again.

“The blatant attack on GMB and the drivers is now a dispute with all our members.”