THOUSANDS of Somerset residents face major disruption to their waste and recycling collections over the next few weeks.
The Unite union has told Somerset Council its waste and recycling collection members intend to start industrial action on Wednesday, July 12.
The union is planning strikes on each Wednesday and Friday through to August 4, while on other days of the week staff will be taking action such as not working overtime or being involved in catch-up collections, for example on Saturdays.
A council spokesperson said: “Though all efforts would be made to limit the impact, industrial action is likely to cause widespread and significant disruption affecting the majority of residents in some way.
“Talks continue to resolve the dispute, but contingency planning is underway to try and limit the impact on residents if it goes ahead.
“Three-weekly refuse collections would be prioritised, along with clinical waste collections and collections from communal locations.
“However, there is no guarantee that these collections will take place on time.
“Recycling collections would be affected to a much greater extent as their crews are redeployed to support the other collections.
“The scheduling of the industrial action means some residents could go multiple weeks without recycling collections.
“At this stage we do not yet know how garden waste collections will be affected.”
The council said the planned industrial action followed unsuccessful annual pay negotiations with its collections contractor Suez UK.
An initial 5.8 per cent increase had been rejected by the union and a recent ballot of Unite members was in favour of industrial action.
A further offer of eight per cent from Suez was also rejected.
The council said disruption to collections would extend beyond the days of industrial action because crews would need to pick up extra, accumulated waste when they restarted.
The council’s executive director for climate and place, Mickey Green, said: “Talks are ongoing and we very much hope that industrial action can be avoided or resolved quickly.
“We know cost of living pressures are affecting everybody, including waste collection crews, but this action would have a big impact on residents across the county.
“We will continue to support Suez as it works to resolve the dispute, assisting where we can.
“If action is taken, we will make as many collections as possible, but some services will have to be prioritised at the expense of others and we would ask for the public’s patience.”