CROYDON binmen will be out to cause "maximum disruption" if they decide to go on strike this summer, a union official has warned.
Between 60 and 70 refuse collectors will be balloted over strike action within the next month, after what the Unite union has described as a breakdown in negotiations over pay. Croydon staff have been offered a wage rise of 1.75 per cent.
A similar vote will be held in neighbouring Bromley, where Veolia Environmental Services also has the refuse collection contract.
The union says any action will be coordinated across both boroughs to make sure that any strikes take place on the same days – ensuring Veolia cannot move staff from one borough to the other to cover for those not working.
Onay Kasab, Unite's regional officer, said members would be balloted on whether they were prepared to take strike action.
Details on any action will not be decided until after results are known, but Mr Kasab told the Advertiser: "The minimum length of action is likely to be three days, if not longer.
"We will be looking to cause the maximum disruption and at what action is going to be the most effective."
He described the offers of 1.75 per cent in Croydon and two per cent in Bromley as "an insult".
Mr Kasab said: "Inflation is running at 3.3 per cent so this would effectively be a pay cut.
"Utility bills, food and travel are all getting more expensive. Yet we are told that this is the price workers must pay for an economic mess we did not cause.
"The last thing we want is our workers set against the public but every worker should be entitled to a wage that meets the cost of living."
A Veolia spokesman said: "We have a long and proud history of working in Croydon and Bromley and have always negotiated and settled amicably with the union on pay issues.
"Having offered two per cent in Bromley and about to do the same in Croydon, it is disappointing that the union has chosen to go to ballot straight away without completing negotiations with us."
Councillor Phil Thomas, Croydon's cabinet member for highways and environmental services, said the council would be monitoring the situation closely but negotiations were a matter for the contractor and their staff.
He added: "We are fairly confident that a settlement will be reached."