BINS will start overflowing in Southampton streets next week after unions warned they were launching strike action in a festering dispute over pay.

More than 180 refuse collectors will walk out for five days on Monday in, what could be, the most severe industrial action in living memory.

When they return, they will not be playing catch-up because all council staff will be working to rule and refusing overtime.

Further bin strikes have not been ruled out as part of rolling action designed for maximum impact.

As reported yesterday, unions Unite and Unison have vowed to launch waves of crippling industrial action affecting 2,600 members, also including gravediggers, street cleaners and parking wardens.

It has left residents fearing chaos and rat infestations.

Unite convenor, Mark Wood, who represents binmen, street cleaners and park rangers, said: “It is going to be wholesale disruption to services, in particular waste collection, and create a backlog of rubbish and waste on the street.

“We can strike indefinitely.

It’s difficult to recall anything as big as this in Southampton.”

Mr Wood said members had been “backed into a corner” after Southampton City Council gave 4,300 of its staff 90 days to sign new contracts in March which cut pay and conditions. The new, worse terms would start on July 1.

The move will help plug a £25m budget hole in 2011/12 after huge Government funding cuts.

Unison branch secretary, Mike Tucker, added: “Only a negotiated settlement can avoid a summer of strikes and disruption.

“The selective strike action will mean key sections of the council will be on strike for extended periods “The industrial action, we hope, will bring the Conservative-controlled council back to the negotiating table.”

Chris Morris, chairman of the Federation of Southampton Tenants and Residents Associations, said the strikes were certain to cause chaos.

She said: “I dread to think what it is going to be like.

"There will be a massive compost pile. It is going to be filthy and smelly and there will be a rat infestation.”

In particular, she feared for people living in flats, some of which have at least three collections a week.

She said: “I can only imagine the amount of rubbish which will pile up.”

A total of 495 union members who took part in the secret ballots voted in favour of strike action (55 per cent).

A further 725 backed industrial action short of a strike (80 per cent). This will includes social workers, environmental health workers and carers refusing to use their private cars for work.

Union bosses are tight-lipped on which members will strike next as they are only required to notify the council one week ahead of the strikes.

Contingency Plans

Council leader Royston Smith, pictured, said there were “robust contingency plans in place” to keep services operating.

He said: “I hope we don’t need to put these plans into action, and I would urge the unions to reconsider their decision to strike.

“Less than 500 staff voted to strike, and I don’t believe they are representative of the majority who just want to get on and deliver services for the city and its residents.

“If the unions were genuinely interested in representing their members’ interests then they should understand we are trying to protect jobs and services.

“Meanwhile, this action will have a real impact on services our customers depend on.

“While I fully understand any reduction in wages will be difficult for our staff, this is the only way to protect our residents from losing their libraries, leisure centres, and Sure Start Centres.

“The reality is that without making changes to staff terms and conditions, we would be looking at losing a further 400 jobs over the space of the next two years.

“That would mean dozens of front line services our residents rely on facing the axe. I am determined not to allow that to happen.

Southampton deserves better.”