'Positive Talks' In Long-Running Row

Unions have suspended their legal action against Southampton City Council which could finally see an end to industrial action in the city.

The row over pay cuts has been going on for more than a year.

Last summer when bin men went on strike, bags of rotting rubbish piled up in the streets.

The UNISON and Unite trade unions at Southampton City Council have agreed to suspend their legal action and ongoing industrial action against the council following constructive negotiations between both parties. 

The unions will ballot their members in September on a proposed deal that aims to resolve the industrial dispute that started when the council changed staff's terms and conditions, including pay cuts. 

As part of the dispute, the unions, who represent a majority of staff affected by the changes, initiated legal proceedings against Southampton City Council, claiming a failure to consult, both on the imposition of new contracts and on redundancies.

Councillor Simon Letts, Cabinet Member for Resources and the council's lead negotiator, welcomed the news, saying: "On behalf of Southampton City Council, I welcome the decision to suspend the legal action as a vital first step to settling an industrial dispute which left a million uncollected bin bags rotting on the streets of our city. 

"This is a vital first step in rebuilding a positive relationship with our staff and improving the quality of services we deliver to our citizens." 

Mike Tucker, UNISON's Branch Secretary in Southampton, said: "We welcome the progress that has been made in the negotiations with the council and believe that the majority of our members will vote to accept the council's proposal for a phased restoration of the pay cuts". 

Mark Wood, Unite Convenor at Southampton City Council, said: "We stated all along that this dispute will only be resolved by negotiation and agreement. We are very pleased with the way negotiations have been conducted since May and are hopeful of a positive outcome in the forthcoming member consultation and ballot." 

Details of the proposed deal will be made available to union members and all other staff at the council next week. 

UNISON and Unite will be holding membership meetings between 5 and 14 September to explain the council's offer. 

A postal ballot of union members will be held between 14 September and 5 October on the council's proposals.