Bin workers in West Norfolk have lost all trust in their employers in a row over whether they should be forced to wear safety caps and goggles, union leaders have claimed.
Members of the GMB union who work for Kier Refuse Services are currently being balloted for industrial action over the issue.
As first reported in the Lynn News earlier this month, the union is angry that workers are being forced to wear bump caps, which contain reinforcement materials, and goggles.
They claim the measures actually make the work more dangerous.
But the company, which is contracted to provide bin collection services to West Norfolk Council, says the measures have halved eye injuries across its business and the measures were initially supported by the union.
Although the result of the current vote is not expected for several weeks, union officials claim the dispute is the latest in a series of grievances which have not been properly resolved.
Glenn Holdom, regional organiser for the GMB, said Kier had still not addressed issues relating to workers’ pay, sick pay provision and the balance of their rounds, which were first raised last year.
He said the union still hoped the dispute could be resolved, but added: “Quite frankly, our members have had enough. They have just lost all confidence in the employer.”
A Kier spokesman yesterday said the company had nothing further to add to the original statement it made about the dispute earlier this month.
In that, the firm said it was “extremely disappointed” by the union’s stance and claimed it had not been formally notified of the intention to hold a strike ballot.
It continued: “We take employee health and safety very seriously and we have robust procedures in place to protect our people and address any concerns.
“The union was fully consulted earlier in the year regarding the use of bump caps and safety glasses in line with our operational excellence policy, and it was with their agreement that the new standards of protection were implemented to ensure that our people continue to work in a safe environment.
“We have met with the GMB on a number of occasions to discuss issues that the union has raised and which we have responded to.
“We are committed to continuing our discussions with them.”
Meanwhile, West Norfolk Council has declined to comment on the issue, which is the second industrial relations dispute to threaten services in the borough.
Members of the RMT union are currently being balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay. The result of that vote is expected next week.