I'm pleased that we were finally able to get all three parties, the council, UNISON and the GMB around the table yesterday to talk and listen to each other, this is the only way that this dispute will be resolved. Clearly there is a lot more work to be done, but all parties have agreed to work together towards a resolution.
We fully accept that staff within our waste, recycling and cleansing service have chosen to join the GMB, we now need to work with both unions in a collaborative process to establish how this new arrangement will work going forward. We cannot simply rip up one union recognition agreement and impose another, it must be re-negotiated. Can you imagine the response by the GMB, if UNISON came along and started doing this, I wonder if they would have simply sit-by and let it happen or whether we would have another strike situation to contend with.
In March all our staff were awarded permanent pay increases and these are being paid now, irrespective of their union membership and will be in their next salary payments in April, with back payments where appropriate.
We are determine to find a resolution to this matter and will be working hard over the coming days to achieve this, but it does require goodwill on all sides, it is hard to see that at this time from the GMB whose members remain on strike, causing misery to 1000's of residents and businesses across our area. Residents may be interested to learn that the strike action is directly supported by the GMB who, after day 2, pay their members a proportion of their core salary at times of strike to stand on the picket line.
I fully acknowledge the staff's comment that they worked throughout the pandemic, delivering an unfaltering service to residents and for that we are all grateful. But so did many other key workers across all sectors of our society, from the NHS, care workers, police, fire, shop workers, teachers, the army of volunteers who stepped up unpaid to help out, we were all in it together.
So, I would ask the staff to stop and reflect on the fact that work is underway to resolve this dispute, the pay award is already in their salary, a pay award far higher than many others across all those other public sector roles. A pay award in-line or higher than agreed elsewhere in Sussex. This is now the time to pause the strike, as they are doing untold damage to their own reputation amongst Worthing residents and losing the massive goodwill they so strongly built up over the last two years.