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Southampton strike talks - and the city - are 'in a mess'
A FIFTH day of talks between council and union leaders broke up with threats of further strike action in Southampton next week.
Residents associations across the city have called for an urgent deal to end the industrial action, now in its tenth week, but negotiators again failed to find a breakthrough yesterday.
Street cleaners, parking wardens and Itchen Bridge toll collectors started a seven-day strike while bin men, who on Friday voted not to strike, were back out on their rounds.
They are among up to 2,400 union members continuing industrial action by working to rule to restore pay cuts of between two and 5.5 per cent brought in on July 11.
Bin men were still catching up on a huge backlog of rubbish across the city. Some crews are three days behind regular collection days but the council is advising residents to leave bins out. Up to ten hire trucks brought in by the council are continuing to target rubbish hotspots.
Union leaders have accused the council of wasting taxpayers’ money on the contractors and warned the bin men could walk out again next week.
Unite regional organiser Ian Woodland said there were reports of some of the contractors clearing rubbish in Woolston and Freemantle twice within three or four days – even if it meant “emptying empty bins”.
Council leader Cllr Royston Smith, pictured below, said: “We would expect some problems in the circumstances, with a few contractors being asked to collect tens of thousands of bins from hundreds of roads they are not familiar with. However they are having a significant effect and providing a good service, collecting hundreds of tonnes of rubbish from the streets during a typical strike week.”
Union leaders were last night unavailable for comment about the talks, which are due to resume later this week.
Cllr Smith apologised for the impact the strikes were having.
He said: “We remain optimistic.
We are continuing to try to find that breakthrough moment.”
The council says its pay cuts will protect 400 jobs as it seeks to make savings of £76m over four years.