Bin contractors cost £3.5m

PRIVATE contractors brought in to help out during the Capital's bin dispute have cost the city more than £3.5 million, new figures have shown.

• Rubbish piles up on Albert Street at the start of the dispute in 2009

The city council said it had spent the money since the start of the row in 2009, when bin men began a work to rule in protest at changes being made to their pay and conditions.

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Figures provided last year showed the dispute had cost more than 5m, but the council has since factored in "savings" like not paying its own staff overtime.

Council bosses said they had spent 3.12m on private contractors in 2009/10 and 440,000 in 2010/11.

However, they said "conceding" the dispute would have cost the local authority at least 30m in each of the last two years.

They also said the integration of trade and domestic waste in February would result in savings worth around 1.1m a year.

But critics attacked the 3.5m bill, saying it was the result of the council's unwillingness to end the dispute, which has been running since June 2009.

Councillor Gordon Munro said: "It's staggering that the council are willing to rack up a bill for 3.5m due to their intransigence and unwillingness to work with the unions.

"There is total indifference amongst senior management about resolving this dispute."

Last month, private refuse firms were once again called on by council chiefs following the latest flare-up in the long- running dispute.

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They are now expected to continue until late summer, when a decision is expected to be made by the council on whether to privatise refuse collection, street cleaning and other environmental services.

Disruption to the service increased during May, with some areas reporting overflowing bins.

The problems have come following the trade waste and domestic waste collections being merged, resulting in reductions in staff numbers.

David Lyon, head of environment at the council, said: "To end the dispute by agreeing on the terms that the refuse collection staff want would have wider pay implications and would have cost the council at least 30m per year over the last two years.

"We have had many negotiations with the unions to end the dispute over the last two years and have made several offers, all of which have been rejected by the union membership in refuse collection.

"It is estimated there will be no cost in this current financial year as the amount spent on contractors is less than what would have been spent on overtime."We have also saved around 1.1m by merging trade and domestic waste collections".

Meanwhile, the council has confirmed that refuse workers based at the city's Baileyfield depot are likely to have their wages docked after failing to work on Easter Monday.

Bin men had complained that managers failed to turn up for work on the Bank Holiday, leaving them locked out of the building and unable to carry out normal collections. However, the council said staff did have access to the depot and went home without authorisation.

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