Waverley Borough Council has been accused of deliberately masking the impact of a bin strike to avoid having to pay out compensation to residents.
A threatened three-week bin strike in Waverley borough was called off after just four days last Monday (November 7), after a breakthrough in talks between Biffa and the GMB trade union.
The walkout by bin workers began on Thursday, November 3 after GMB members working for Waverley Borough Council’s waste contractor Biffa rejected an improved pay offer.
Kerbside collections and street cleaning in Farnham, Haslemere, Godalming, Cranleigh and surrounding areas were set to halt until November 23.
But the borough council confirmed last Monday (November 7) that the strike had come to an end after an agreement was reached between Biffa and the GMB.
This was confirmed by the GMB’s regional officer Paul Grafton – but neither party has disclosed the reason for the breakthrough.
Mr Grafton said the terms of the deal were “confidential”. But Waverley did confirm no additional public money was pledged, saying “no funding for, or renegotiation with Biffa, has taken place over this matter”.
The council added bin collections were now returning to normal in Waverley, while its missed bin reporting service has now been reactivated.
This came after the council attracted criticism for withdrawing the service on the first day of the strike, with the GMB accusing the council of seeking to mask the true impact of the walkout to the detriment of residents.
Speaking before the breakthrough, GMB regional officer Mr Grafton said: “It appears Waverley council are looking to deceive the public about the impact of our industrial action by shutting down the online missed bin reporting line.
“This can only be an attempt to mask the statistics from the general public in the hope they don’t have to reimburse the public for their council tax.
“Waverley would have to disclose the numbers if an FOI came in, but this way the figures would never become available.
“If there really are the majority of workers out on the job and our action really isn’t having much of an impact, they should open up the avenues of complaint and put their money where their mouth is.”
Waverley council initially played down the industrial action as a “partial” strike, telling councillors “most of the staff elected to continue to work in the spirit of goodwill”.
This was disputed by the GMB, which insisted the “majority” of its members had joined the strike – and the council later conceded its ‘partial’ strike claim “might have confused things”.
A Biffa spokesperson said: “We’re pleased the strike action has been called off and that services have returned to normal.”
Waverley Borough Council was invited to comment on GMB’s criticism but had not responded to the Herald as the paper went to press.