Refuse workers in the Kirklees area of west Yorkshire, members of Unison, returned a majority on 8 May for strikes over bullying and harassment, inability to take leave to attend medical appointments, and inability to take annual leave they are entitled to.
Workers voted by 85.5% in favour of strikes on an 86.1% turnout. This is a massive turnout and “yes” vote well above the new minimum turnout of 50% for industrial action ballots. The balloted workers are at two depots, one in Huddersfield and one in Dewsbury.
The ballot followed management’s failure to keep promises, made over six months ago, to look into long-running issues of bullying and harassment. Some bin workers have over 10 months’ holiday to take and no chance of taking it. Workers also report not being able to take compassionate leave or look after sick relatives and children.
Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison Branch Secretary, said “workers don’t take strike action lightly – going on strike is a serious business and a great deal of ‘soul-searching’ is involved. Our members have families, dependants and some are carers. But how long can you put up with bullying every day? At some stage you have to say ‘enough is enough’. The bin workers have reached that stage”.
Unison named 14 days of strikes starting on 4 June. However Kirklees council, a Council which Labour won the majority in May’s election, have now promised an investigation into the bullying and harassment as well as levels of cover.
Unison has suspended the strike action pending the outcome of this investigation.