HAMPSHIRE’S road gritters are threatening to cause “huge disruption” by going on strike this winter in a dispute over pay cuts.
The industrial action by around 150 workers would cause travel chaos on county’s A and B roads as workers walk out.
Union leaders have threatened strike action that would see roads ungritted and pot holes unrepaired.
They have accused Amey, which employs the road maintenance workers under a contract with the county council, of seeking to cut overtime payments and other terms and conditions to boost profits.
Unite, which represents the majority of road gritters, said its members had already voted unanimously to reject the company’s proposals.
Unison and GMB are also in dispute with Amey.
Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett said a strike ballot will be launched if the company fails to come back by the end of next week with improved proposals for negotiation.
He said: “The workforce is totally united and will defend their livelihoods.
“Unfortunately, if industrial action goes ahead, the gritting of roads won’t happen in the comprehensive fashion that would need to be done during a severe cold snap. Huge disruption is on the cards.
“Our members really don’t want this, as it will increase the hazards for motorists – but they are victims of Amey’s greedy quest for profits.”
Mr Bonnett said workers were already low paid, earning around £15,000 a year, and relied on overtime at up to double time to support their families and pay their bills.
Amey made a profit of £83m last year on total revenues of £1.1 billion, including an operating profit of £14.6m from its local government division which makes up just over a third of the group’s turnover.
Amey said its proposals would increase basic pay and improve holiday entitlement and sick pay for many workers.
It said it remained committed to reaching a deal that employees were happy with and until consultation with employees and trade unions was concluded no changes will be implemented. A further meeting with unions is planned for next week, a spokeswoman said.
Hampshire County Council awarded Amey a seven-year £245m contract to maintain the county’s highways in 2008 and signed a further one-year extension in April taking the deal until 2016. Amey replaced Balfour Beatty.
Councillor Mel Kendal, the council’s executive member for transport, said he hoped the dispute would be resolved but said the authority would “take all necessary steps to keep Hampshire moving”.
“We are working with Amey to ensure that we have plans in place to ensure that winter salting of A and B roads would be carried out as needed,” he said.
Amey is owned by Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial, which also owns Southampton airport operator BAA.