Wiltshire Council has answered some frequently asked questions regarding the ongoing waste industrial action.
Ongoing industrial action between some Hills Municipal Collections workers and the GMB Union is causing significant disruption to services. The strikes are expected to last until 19th March, but there could be more.
Yesterday (9th March 2022), Wiltshire Council and Hills Municipal Collections decided to temporarily suspend recycling services in the county until 21st March 2022 to prioritise household waste and chargeable garden waste collections.
Here are some of your questions answered by Wiltshire Council:
Why are these strikes going ahead?
“The industrial action is out of our direct control and is a matter for Hills Municipal Collections and the GMB Union. The dispute relates to staff pay, and we hope it is resolved as quickly as possible.”
Why wasn’t there more warning about the strikes?
“We had some warning and had contingency plans in place in case of industrial action. However, negotiations between Hills Municipal Collections and the GMB Union have been ongoing, so we have been hopeful of a resolution being achieved before industrial action was taken. When it became clear that strike action would proceed from Monday 7 March, we put our contingency plans in place, while also reacting to the fluid situation on the ground.”
Have you planned for this?
“Yes. We, of course, do not want any disruption to our waste collections services as we appreciate the difficulties this can cause for our residents. However, we have been prepared for the possibility of strikes, and have contingency plans in place.
“Part of these plans is to prioritise general household waste and temporarily postpone recycling collections, which is the action we’re taking now. We were hoping not to have to suspend any services in full but we’ve had to react quickly to the ongoing situation.”
Can’t you just pay the Hills workers more?
“The dispute is between Hills Municipal Collections and the GMB Union and is out of the council’s direct control.”
When will the strikes end?
“The current round of industrial action is due to end on 18 March. The parties could potentially reach an agreement that would bring the current industrial action to an end. However, if the two parties cannot come to a resolution, there may be further rounds of industrial action. We will keep you updated if this is the case.”
What services are suspended?
“Working with Hills Municipal Collections, we have decided to suspend emptying recycling bins (black boxes and blue-lidded bins) across the county, with the service expected to resume again week beginning 21 March. General waste and garden waste services are not affected – these will still be collected as normal, although maybe slightly later than normally scheduled.”
I pay my council tax and expect this service to be provided
“These are exceptional circumstances that are out of our control, but we apologise for any frustration and inconvenience this may cause. We will collect additional recycling materials that have been stockpiled during this period when recycling services resume from 21 March. Your council tax is a contribution toward the costs of statutory services provided for the whole community and recycling make up only a small percentage of the overall costs.
“Your council tax is not a charge for specific services you receive it is a payment toward a wide range of services that would otherwise be uneconomical to deliver if each service were the subject of a separate charge. We really appreciate people’s understanding during this time.”
Why have you had to suspend household recycling services?
“We have seen instances of waste vehicles being blocked from leaving depots due the positioning of some of the pickets. This, unfortunately, has had a knock-on effect on our services, and therefore in order to prioritise the collection of residual household waste we made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend recycling services.”
When will my recycling next be collected?
“Recycling collections will resume from 21 March and will be collected on your next usual collection day after that date.”
I have already put my recycling out for collection. What should I do?
“If you have already put out you black boxes and blue-lidded bins, you should take them back in until their next scheduled collection date from 21 March.”
Why hasn’t the waste calendar been updated to reflect this?
“Due to the fluidity of the situation the waste calendar will not be updated to reflect that recycling services have been suspended until 21st March or any other disruptions. However, we will keep our waste pages and social media up to date with any significant updates.”
My general household waste or garden waste collections have been missed. What should I do?
“Please leave your general waste or garden waste bins out and they will be collected as soon as possible – usually the next day. Recycling collections won’t resume until after 21 March, so please do not leave these containers out.”
Does the suspension of recycling services affect household waste or garden waste collection?
“No, we ask that people put out their household waste and garden waste bins on their scheduled collection day. If they are not emptied on your normal scheduled day they will be as soon as possible, usually the next day.”
I have a lot of recycle waste already, will you collect materials that don’t fit in the blue-lidded bins/black boxes when the recycling services resume?
“Yes, when recycling collections do resume, the waste teams will accept additional recycling materials that have been stockpiled. So you will be able to leave out additional materials in separate bags/suitable containers (such as plastic crates) by your bins if you can’t fit it in your containers.
“You can also take it to your nearest household recycling centre if you find you have too much to store.”
What would be a suitable container to put any excess recycling materials out with my blue lidden bin/black box when recycling services resume?
“Plastic boxes or reusable shopping bags would be suitable. If you put tin cans, plastic bottles etc in a box or bag beside the bin we will take it. Big bags are ok too.”
When are my collection days?
Find out your collection days.
Why haven’t you written to every household about the strike and suspension of recycling services?
“Given the ongoing nature of the discussions between Hills Municipal Collections and the GMB Union, and the fact that it takes nearly two weeks to send a letter to every Wiltshire household, it would not be possible to send letters. Once the letter is written and sent, the situation may well change while it’s being delivered, so people have out of date or the wrong information.
“We have sent out numerous press releases that have been covered by local radio and TV, and have posted regularly on social media, our website and our residents’ newsletters. We apologise to anyone who feels they’ve not been aware of the situation but we’ve done what we can to get messages out to people as often as possible.”
The suspension of recycling services does not affect general household waste or garden waste collections. People are asked to continue to put out their household waste and garden waste bins on their scheduled collection day by 7am, and if they’re not collected, to leave them out and where possible they will be collected the next day.
For the latest updates on any disruption or changes to waste collection services, people are asked to keep an eye on Wiltshire Council’s Twitter feed.
If people need to get rid of any excess rubbish or recycling, the council’s household recycling centres remain open. Details about Household Recycling Centres can be found here.