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Week-long strike over pay row

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Bins will go uncollected in Southampton this week as hundreds of council staff strike in a bitter dispute over pay.

Unison and Unite members at Southampton City Council have promised a week of industrial action in protest to the authority’s decision to impose a new set of terms and conditions including a pay cut on reluctant staff.

Just over 100 refuse workers are set to take full strike action from Monday to Friday while other staff, including care workers, street cleaners and social workers, are taking a range of actions including work to rule, overtime bans, and a refusal to use personal vehicles and mobile phones for work purposes.

Further action is to be considered by the union this week.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, who is set to visit the city to show support for the industrial action, described the council’s decision to dismiss and re-engage employees opposed to the new contracts as “medieval”. “Our members are standing up for basic human rights. The actions of Southampton City Council should be condemned by all decent people,” she added.

Union officials warned the strike heralded a summer of disruption and called on the council’s leadership to enter talks with unions and conciliatory service ACAS.

However, Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said the leadership appeared more interested in touring the country talking to Conservative colleagues and issuing scare stories to the press.

“Rather than engage in proper negotiations the leader of the council [Royston Smith (Con)] prefers to drip feed his political point of view to the press and ignore the concerns of his employees,” he said. “These attacks on our members’ terms and conditions are being driven by a personal political agenda. The Tories have wanted to attack our member’s terms and conditions ever since they won control of the council in 2008. Our members are united, angry and determined.”

A council spokesman said the authority was “disappointed” by the industrial action and apologised for any impact on services.

“The council believes that these changes are essential to avoid a further 400 job losses and to protect public services,” he said.

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