A PLANNED Christmas Eve strike by refuse workers in Chester has been averted.
Following a one-day strike earlier in the month, May Gurney workers were due to strike over the Christmas period following a row over pay.
An agreement was reached yesterday morning between the firm and the GMB Union, which represents May Gurney’s refuse collection employees based on Bumpers Lane, to avoid the strike action and ensure services continue as planned over the festive period.
Union members had voted to take strike action over the disparity in pay between themselves and Cheshire West and Chester Council refuse collectors who do the same job and were claimed to earn about £2 per hour more.
The agreement has been welcomed by GMB Union regional organiser Graham McDermott, who had been heavily involved in negotiations with May Gurney bosses, but stressed the agreement had been based on a commitment by the company to deliver on its promise of a 3.2 per cent rise in wages.
Mr McDermott said: “Our members voted to accept the company’s offer and will no longer be taking strike action over the festive period.
“As it stands, this is a commitment by May Gurney to bring wages to an acceptable level and we are pleased this agreement has been made and we have been able to avoid taking strike action.
“The last thing our members wanted to do was take strike action as it would impact them financially as well as causing problems for the public so to have come out with this outcome is very satisfying.”
GMB members had rejected an initial offer of an enhanced remuneration package last week, which would have seen a 24p increase for drivers and 21p increase for loaders, due to the lack of commitment from the firm in ensuring the wage gap was bridged sufficiently in the coming year.
Mr McDermott added: “We are hoping that by July 1 next year the disparity that currently exists is met by the firm and we can move forward and put this matter behind us.
“We have received a commitment from them that this will be the case and we sincerely hope this will be true. If it isn’t then we will end up back at square one.”
Contingency plans had been put in place by both the council and May Gurney to address any possible strike action.
Since winning the £126m contract to run the city’s waste and recycling scheme, May Gurney has come under fire from some Chester residents due to late and missed collections and reports of rubbish being left on the streets.
Zak Shell, general manager, May Gurney Public Sector Services, said: “The workforce has accepted the offer presented to them and we can confirm there will be no industrial action on December 24.”