Fly-tipping and rodent fears over looming council strikes

The Unite trade union and local councils have been urged to get round the negotiating table to avert looming strike action amid fears of fly-tipping and even rat problems if bins go uncollected.

The outgoing Environment Minister Edwin Poots said bin bags full of rubbish stacking up outside people’s houses, if bins go uncollected and recycling centres close down as a result of the strikes, pose “environmental health” problems and could attract rodents.

The Unite union has confirmed its members at most Northern Ireland councils are due to strike over a two-week period from April 25 until May 8 over pay.

It represents an escalation of Unite’s industrial action, following a week-long strike last month.

Edwin Poots has raised fears of bin bags full of rubbish stacking up outside people’s houses, if bins go uncollected

The strike in March had a varying impact between the 11 councils areas across Northern Ireland, with some seeing all bin collections halted and recycling centres closed while others had little disruption.

But with a full two-week strike in most areas, the impact is likely to be increased this time around.

Mr Poots, speaking to the News Letter, said: “It’s an environmental health issue if it’s an extended period of time, you also have the whole recycling role which could be negatively impacted.

“I would encourage the councils and the unions to put their heads together and find a solution to this.”

Mr Poots continued: “Everybody should act responsibly. Fly-tipping is something that nobody should contemplate. If people have excess waste, they should take it to a waste recycling centre.”

Mr Poots said in cases where bins are not being collected and recycling centres are closed, people should “try to keep their waste in the bins as far as possible”.

He continued: “I know that will be a challenge, but even keeping waste in plastic bags beside bins can be an attraction to rodents so people should try, if at all possible, not to keep it easily accessible to rodents.”

Unite members in the Education Authority are also due to go on strike for a similar two-week period, from April 26 until May 1, and again from May 3 to 8 following the May Day bank holiday.

Unite members in the Southern Regional College and Belfast Metropolitan College are also due to go on strike on a series of dates from April 25 onwards.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is also set to be impacted, with Unite members there also set to strike from April 25. And two schools are also included — St Columb’s College and Lumen Christi —from April 26.