Council's Disappointment at Further Strike Action

Posted by: Natalie Johnson on 26 April 2024 10:40

South Tyneside Council has expressed its acute frustration and disappointment after bin crews voted to take a further six months of industrial action that will continue to disrupt waste collections across South Tyneside.

The GMB union has notified the Council of its intention to undertake further strike action 1 - 14 May 2024 inclusive. This is despite positive ACAS talks last month and a detailed action plan being agreed by all trade unions and the workforce to move forward.

This also comes after explicit agreement by the Unions on 4th April 2024 not to strike further until the action plan is given time to succeed.

There has been a lack of explanation or meaningful communication from GMB as to their reasons why the situation has changed since the turn of the month. Despite continued and reasonable efforts by the Council to understand their position and their reasons for their about-turn, GMB have simply advised that industrial action will be taken unless managers are removed, despite GMB recognising that the Council cannot under employment law and will not arbitrarily remove people. 

The Council has delayed confirming next week's strike action until now as it sought to work to avoid another strike, to minimise disruption to residents and was awaiting a response from GMB before being able to communicate with any certainty.

The Council has shown its commitment to resolving matters and is already implementing the agreed action plan despite GMB re-balloting members. Delivery of this plan will see a range of improvements in response to feedback from the workforce, better supporting them in their roles and providing a comprehensive reset of the service for residents. This will include investment in the balancing of bin rounds; renewal and upgrading of equipment; and stronger engagement, communication and behaviour protocols put into place.  

Jonathan Tew, Chief Executive of South Tyneside Council said: "I know that this will be another blow for the people of South Tyneside. It is completely unreasonable not to at least provide the service with a period of normality and stability so that the jointly developed action plan can be implemented, before proposing any further action short of strike, or future strike dates. We continue to do everything within our power to avoid strike action, but without any communication from GMB as to their reasons for taking further industrial action, it is proving impossible to resolve this dispute through the usual channels.

"We have worked tirelessly to engage with and listen to the concerns of the workforce. I have personally spoken to all available members of the waste crew and listened to their views. We've met 30 times with crew members and trade union officials in the last four months alone and maintained regular communication throughout, feedback from the crew has been positive. The agreed action plan addresses concerns and gives all parties a constructive way forward.

"I'm sorry that our residents and businesses have had to endure this ongoing action despite all efforts being made by the Council to bring it to an end."

An independent investigation into a collective grievance submitted last year has now concluded. The confidential findings, which have been presented to all parties have not been challenged. The HR process in respect of the collective grievance has been complete for a number of months.

The Council has made a concerted effort to resolve the dispute through extensive engagement with teams, listening and acting upon concerns, including spending time out on the rounds with some crews, talking directly to them about rounds and hearing first hand some of the day-to-day challenges they face in delivering the service.

The balancing of rounds was a fundamental ask of the waste crews that the Council has been keen to progress. A period of stability is now needed to undertake full route optimisation work as requested by the workforce.

Stuart Wright, Director of Place and Communities at South Tyneside Council said: "To be clear we have thoroughly investigated the concerns raised, internally and independently following HR processes, and there are no grounds for a change in operational management. The strike is completely unjustified.

"We have been understanding throughout the first six months of Industrial Action trying to seek common ground to end this dispute for the people of South Tyneside who have shown remarkable patience.

"Three weeks ago, Trade Union representatives gave us assurances that there would be no further strike action, so that we could deliver the action plan, support the workforce, and get back to delivering an effective and efficient bin collection service.

"We understand how frustrating and challenging the situation is for all our residents and thank everyone for their patience and understanding. We continue to work extremely hard to mitigate the impact of the strikes as much as we can."

In addition to ongoing dialogue, the Council invited a Local Government Association/ Association for Public Service Excellence (LGA/APSE) Peer Review team in to evaluate Waste Services. The peer review was not an inspection and was a constructive exercise intended to complement the ongoing dialogue with Trade Unions, management and the workforce and provide an understanding for all parties on how other councils operate and share best practice.

The peer team found a committed workforce across all areas of the service. The findings of the LGA/APSE Peer review have been shared with all parties and a full report will be published in due course.

Industrial action continues despite no evidence of bullying and harassment of the workforce by management. The workforce has made no requests for significant changes to terms and conditions. There are no reasonable grounds for further industrial action or strikes. The workforce is wishing to effect a change in management which is unsupported and unjustified having thoroughly investigated workforce concerns.

Operatives continue to take action on non-strike days which is contributing to some bins not being collected on residents' scheduled collection days - or at all, due to crews not completing their rounds within the week.

In order to ensure that all areas are treated fairly, a rolling programme of collections is in place which are behind any normal schedule. Residents are advised to present all bins and leave them out until one is collected.

As part of ongoing attempts to mitigate the impact of the strike skips have already been reinstated across the borough. They will be available every day 9am - 3pm until Sunday 5 May to support residents to dispose of excess waste. For full details of locations visit

The strike action in May also coincides with Local Government, Mayoral and Police Crime Commissioner elections across the borough and regionally.

Jonathan Tew, also South Tyneside Council's Returning Officer, said: "I want to reassure everyone that despite action coinciding with election day we are working with the Unions, our police and regional colleagues to ensure the safe delivery of the election. It is important that everyone gets the chance to cast their vote at the ballot box and this will not be impacted by strike action or associated protests."

Residents with waste related queries are encouraged to visit the Council's website at in the first instance, where they will find further information including a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).


Last modified: 26 April 2024 13:14