Parts of Kent could see rubbish “left to pile up in the streets” after bin workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay.
The latest formal ballot – the results of which were confirmed on Friday – follows an earlier consultative ballot in the spring which also produced a result in favour of strike action.
It sets the scene for a potential summer of unemptied bins, with crunch talks between the union and bosses at Veolia – which operates bin collections on behalf of the two district councils – due to be held this coming Thursday, June 8.
The union is seeking wage increases which would see HGV drivers have their hourly rate increased by 48% to the £20 per hour mark, and loaders’ wages rise by 47% to £15 per hour.
Organisers leading the fight on behalf of their members have previously described these hourly rates as the "minimum standard" workers should be paid in 2023.
The GMB is now urging bosses to come to the table to negotiate a settlement which could avert the threat of a walk-out.
Gary Palmer, a regional organiser for the GMB, said: “This is possibly Veolia’s last chance to avoid a walk out, our members have had enough of platitudes and insulting minuscule pay offers.
“Veolia management need to start to recognise their own staff’s real value and make a offer reflective of the hard work they put in week in and week out getting residents’ kerbside collections done each day.
“Otherwise rubbish will be left to pile up in the streets around Dover and Folkestone.
“So we urge Veolia to come on the 8th ready to negotiate a deal, if they do the GMB Union are positive we will find a solution that everyone can sign up to.”
In the worst-case scenario, households and businesses could see rubbish pile up as it goes uncollected during any strike action which sees bin workers down tools.
There is also the ongoing threat of strike action in Canterbury and Thanet.
During similar disputes in Brighton and Scotland, huge piles of rubbish were seen in the streets as a result of the industrial action.
Such scenes here in Kent could prove a particular blight on the summer, a time when the county is at its most popular with visitors.