MEMBERS of unions representing employees of Carmarthenshire County Council have been picketing depots across Carmarthenshire in protest at what they claim is ‘disgraceful’ behaviour by the local authority.
The dispute, which is ongoing has seen the council and unions at loggerheads in trying to find a way to resolve the payment issue for staff who work through the night gritting Carmarthenshire’s roads.
In a statement issued on Tuesday (Dec 17) the unions representative said: “All three unions GMB, Unison and Unite met with the Director Of Environmental Services, Carmarthenshire County Council today.
“Unfortunately the council which is led by Plaid Cymru refused to significantly increase the retainer payment on offer. For an increase of £15pm in the retainer payment the council wanted us to call off the industrial action and to agree to conciliation talks with ACAS.
“The reason stated for being unable to offer more money was that Environmental Services had to make efficiencies (cuts) and therefore didn’t have any more to offer. We think the council should get its priorities right they found the money to pay an exorbitant salary to the ex-CEO for many years; they have wasted 100,000’s in the past on inefficient standby payments and may have wasted millions in the past by not having proper procurement procedures in place but they are not prepared to find a fraction of this to pay employees to do a hard and dangerous job keeping our roads safe. To add insult to injury the council are preparing to use RMS contractors to try in effect break the industrial action by using them to grit the roads instead. But this will cost the local authority far more to use contractors than what our members are paid. Why can’t they find the money to pay our members a decent retainer when they can find a lot more to pay contractors.
“The unions will be contacting and lobbying RMS not do this work. All three unions will be taking industrial action on the 18th/19th and 20th December and there will be picket lines outside Llandovery, Glanamman, Cillefwr and Unit 10,Trostre depots on those days. While we have agreed to attend talks with ACAS and the employer but we do not think these will be successful unless the employer offers to increase the retainer payments substantially. Unless this happens far more substantial industrial action is on the cards after Christmas.”
Speaking to Wales News Online at one of the picket lines Mark Evans of UNISON said: “We are picketing Nantglas and the Llandovery depot because the local authority instead of paying our members a decent retainer for winter gritting are paying contractors an arm and a leg instead which we think is an absolute disgrace.
“Our members do a hard and difficult job keeping the roads safe and the employers are not prepared to pay a decent wage. We have put a lot of press releases out there. We haven’t had any adverse reaction.
“We are appealing to the public. If you want your roads gritted and ice free then people should be paid a decent amount to do that. If people have an accident through no fault of their own they could loose a lot of money through a rise in their insurance payments.”