Back to work on Wednesday: Leeds bin strike ends after 11 weeks

THE eleven week strike by refuse collectors in Leeds has ended after a deal to resolve a pay row, unions confirmed this afternoon.

Around 600 workers at Leeds City Council started strike action at the beginning of September, causing problems with refuse collection as well as street cleaning in the city.

The dispute was entering its 12th week today when unions announced that a deal to resolve the row had been overwhelmingly accepted.

In a vote taken at a mass meeting at the Jongleurs comedy club this morning, 79 per cent voted in favour of going back to work and are expected to start on Wednesday.

Under the deal, which the unions recommended for acceptance, refuse workers who were facing large pay cuts will now see a small increase of 19 a year if they make productivity and efficiency improvements.

A similar deal was last month overwhelmingly rejected by GMB and Unison members. But after further negotiations it is understood that bin collection rounds will be reorganised to help meet the new productivity targets.

The workers walked out over claims by the unions that a new pay system would lead to a wage cut of up to 5,000.

During the dispute, rubbish has piled up on streets with concerns about rats and the effect on public health.

Leeds council leader Coun Richard Brett said: "I am delighted that our revised offer appears to have been accepted by the majority of union members.

"This is good news for us, our workers and the people of Leeds.

"We have been able to work up slightly amended proposals which completely eradicate pay losses for many workers.

"We will also continue to work with other members of refuse staff who stand to lose money to see what can be done to close any pay gap.

"In the meantime, they will still benefit from pay protection until 2011.

"Now, we need to get on with modernising the service and begin to achieve the productivity improvements and efficiencies we require.

"However, our immediate priority is to get staff back to work and a full service restored as soon as possible."

The council's Labour Group leader Coun Keith Wakefield, said: "I am obviously delighted that an agreement has finally been reached between the unions and the council to end the industrial action of bin workers and street cleaners in the city.

"However, we cannot get away from the fact that the reason this industrial action happened was because of the sheer incompetence shown by the Tory-Lib Dem administration in control of the Council.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that an agreement could have been reached to end the strike a lot earlier, if the council had not refused to speak to the unions for four weeks at the beginning.

"We will now be seeking to establish what the true cost of this industrial action was to the tax payer, as we remain totally unconvinced by the figures put forward by the Council so far."

Neil Derrick, regional officer of the GMB union said: "Our members have voted emphatically to return to work because they recognise the victory that their solidarity has delivered.

"Twelve weeks ago they faced savage pay cuts and privatisation but today they have agreed to return to work on Wednesday with both these threats removed.

"We would like to place on record our thanks to the people of Leeds who despite the inconvenience they suffered have recognised the just cause of the workers."

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