WE are now into the fourth phase of bin strikes in Warrington.

Unite members are walking out from today, Tuesday, through December 4.

It comes after the third phase of bin strikes which ended just yesterday, Monday.

After weeks of disruption to bin services in the town, here’s the latest on everything we know about the strikes – including the council seeking a High Court injunction.

When did the strikes begin?

On September 28, Warrington Borough Council confirmed that a ‘small number’ of waste, highways, and environment workers had announced their intention to strike from October 3 to October 16.

It was understood that the strike action was to affect Unite members at the council and that it related to the 2023/2024 local government pay award.

The council originally said that it was ‘anticipating a small level of disruption’.

Warrington Guardian:

What has happened since?

Since the beginning of October, four waves of bin strikes have been announced.

The first took place on October 3 and lasted until October 16.

During this period, a second wave of walkouts was confirmed for October 24 to November 6.

READ MORE > Businessowner's annoyance at residents dumping waste in her bins amid strikes

But as there was a pause in strikes, the council was able to catch up on black bin collections in the town – which meant it had to suspend blue and green ones.

Meanwhile, a third wave of strikes was announced for November 8 to November 20.

A fourth walk-out was then confirmed to take place from today, Tuesday, until December 4.

This means that since the beginning of October, no blue or green bins have been emptied across the town while black household waste has only been emptied once or twice, depending on what area of Warrington you live in.

Why are refuse workers striking?

Unite members have walked out in a dispute over pay.

A spokesperson for the union recently told the Warrington Guardian how it will be giving its members ‘rock solid support’ as they continue to fight for improved terms and conditions at a local level.

A poster has been handed out by strikes which reads: "We apologise that you have been affected by our strike action over the last month.

"We share your frustrations that Warrington Borough Council did not engage in talks before our strike action began, and has not made serious efforts to reach an agreement that could bring the strikes to an end.

"We are low-paid workers providing vital services to our community, who are increasingly struggling to survive during a cost of living crisis."

Warrington Guardian:

What has Unite said?

The union has blamed the council’s ‘dithering’ for a fourth phase of strike action.

The union has accused council leaders of dither and delay.

Two weeks ago, a provisional agreement was agreed, but the council has not confirmed the proposals in writing, meaning Unite cannot consult it members on the proposal, the union says.

At the time, a spokesperson said: “The 70-plus workers say the national pay offer of a flat rate increase of £1,925 is not good enough.

“The offer is below the rate of inflation and amounts to a real-terms pay cut. But a complete lack of urgency shown by the council towards resolving this dispute is needlessly delaying a resolution.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Throughout this dispute, Warrington Borough Council has dithered and delayed, needlessly dragging this strike out.

“Unless council leaders sharpen up, this strike will continue into the festive season. Unite’s support for our members remains steadfast.”

While the national pay deal has been agreed, local members are hoping for extra improvements including a one-off payment, changes to Christmas shift patterns and more laundry support.

What has the council said?

Warrington Borough Council is now seeking a High Court injunction in a bid to bring the bin strikes to an end.

Council correspondence seen by the Warrington Guardian states: “Having followed legal advice throughout the industrial dispute, we have attempted to resolve the issue via appropriate negotiations and discussion, including a corporate joint consultative committee on November 8.

“Unfortunately and regrettably, Unite has not been responsive to our position that we are prepared to consider all local issues as long as they are dealt with through our agreed local negotiating processes.

READ MORE > Council to seek High Court injunction to block union from encouraging bin strikes

“Our other trade unions – Unison and GMB – have been cooperative and responsible throughout this dispute.

“We are now at the stage where the council has now had to challenge the legal mandate for the continuation of the industrial action.”

A letter has been sent from the council’s solicitors, having been drafted in after the council took legal advice, calling for Unite to cancel upcoming planned strike action.

Warrington Guardian: The council accepts that it won't be able to collect all bins scheduled for collection today

Unite’s response to the council seeking a High Court injunction

A letter from Unite seen by the Warrington Guardian states: “As you will know, the National Joint Council is a body which consists of representatives of three independent trade unions, who represent thousands of workers across the country.

“On November 7, we, as an independent trade union representing workers employed by you (the council), notified you as their employer of a properly and lawfully conducted ballot for industrial action.

“You will be aware that Unite, nor importantly its members, did not vote in favour of the pay award.

“It is quite obvious that it remains the case that our members (or your workers) are in dispute with you (their employer) in relation to their terms and conditions in relation to pay.

“This dispute patently still exists as their demands and expectations were not met, either in the NJC imposed award or otherwise.”

Advice for residents during the strikes

Residents are asked to continue to make use of community recycling centres, which will continue to have extended opening hours during the industrial action.

You should also flatten any household waste before putting it in the bin so you can fit more in, but make sure not to pack waste in too tightly that it risks not being able to be emptied properly.

Talk to your neighbours about sharing bin space so all bins are filled, and if you have the space and your bin is full, keep your recycling waste indoors.

Why can’t I check my bin collection date online?

The council has removed the page on its website where you can normally check when your bin is due to be emptied.

This is to save people from getting confused, with the page to be reinstated after the strike action finishes.

Will I get a refund on my council tax?

It seems not.

The council’s website states that although it understands not having waste emptied is frustrating, ‘council tax is and remains a tax’.

It reads: “That means households legally have to pay their council tax bill, even if services are disrupted, or even if people don’t use certain services. A mechanism for this type of refund does not exist.

“We are working on plans to make sure that a waste and recycling catch-up operation happens after the strike action.”

Can the council pay agency staff to empty bins?

The council says that by law it is banned from paying agency workers to cover duties performed by a worker who is taking part in a strike.

“This prevents us from employing agency workers to cover the duties of employees on strike,” the website reads.