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Industrial action brings Carmarthenshire County Council back to negotiating table

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TWO days of recent industrial action taken by Unison, GMB and Unite members regarding the winter gritting dispute with Carmarthenshire County Council were successful in more ways than one. All depots had picket lines with Nantglas depot picket line in Cross Hands being particularly well attended and supported. Pickets and supporters welcomed the visit and solidarity of Rob James opposition Labour Group leader of Carmarthenshire County who came to support our action.

We have been forced to take this action due to the intransigence of the Plaid led council who have flouted the collective winter gritting agreement that they signed two years ago after industrial action then. Our members particularly those with families are angry that they have on many occasions been left waiting all night for a call to be told whether they will be gritting or not only not to receive a call. Union members have said this is not about the money but about having enough time for rest periods and not having to stay awake all night waiting to answer the phone. These members are not paid standby payments and yet they are expected to be available all night. This is in our opinion a clear flouting of the collective winter gritting agreement.

Our action was a clear show of strength that forced the council back to the negotiating table by offering to reinstate talks via ACAS. We would like to thank all members and supporters including Swansea Trades Council who supported our action and who attended the picket lines thus far. The council struggled to provide an inferior and unsafe winter gritting service during our industrial action that was maintained by inspectors, supervisors, and a smattering of contractors.

Since the above industrial action took place the trade unions received a request via ACAS for a meeting with the council on the Monday the 17th of Jan (this has now changed to the 18th of Jan). This offer of talks (if the council are prepared to change their position) shows that two days of action has more effect on the council than two years of negotiations. We welcome that that council are now prepared to talk but we have asked for reassurances that they are serious about finding a positive solution for our members i.e., adhering to the winter gritting collective agreement and we called for the Cabinet member for Environmental Services to be present. We were asked whether we were prepared to postpone further industrial action by ACAS pending talks. Considering industrial action forced the council to offer to meet again all three unions were not prepared to postpone all the industrial action that was planned. But as a goodwill gesture we said we were prepared to postpone action for the Monday the 17th of January only, action will continue to take place from the 18th to the 21st of January if the council is not serious about ending the dispute. The overtime ban and picket lines will still be taking place on the above dates to ensure we keep the pressure up on the council to change its stance. It is our expectation that the council will be bring positive proposals to the meeting on the 18th of January i.e., that they are from now on are going to adhere to the winter gritting collective agreement. If this proves not be the case, then the dispute will continue with the action already planned taking place.

Carmarthenshire County Council said that it would like to reassure the public that contingency arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of the travelling public as winter maintenance staff prepare to take industrial action.

Trade unions have asked their members not to carry out gritting on roads out-of-hours on January 5 and 6. Two further periods of industrial action are also planned between January 17 and 21, and January 24 to 28.

The council rejects comments made by the GMB in relation to the agreement that is in place in relation to winter maintenance duties, and has also put forward a revised offer.

The agreement, which was put in place in 2020, recognises the valuable contribution council employees make and provided them with a remuneration package which is one of the highest in Wales. 

The package provides employees with a retainer payment for committing to the rota throughout the winter period to cover gritter driving.

In a typical winter the council will schedule 310 shifts across 158 days. Employees are stood down on 201 shifts (65%) out of the 310, instructed to grit on 83 shifts (27%) and where there is uncertainty in a forecast drivers are retained on 26 shifts (8%). Employees are paid the retainer for all 310 shifts regardless of whether they need to work or not work.

The council has always adhered to the terms and conditions of the agreement, and in order to avoid industrial action and to secure the service, the council has put forward a revised offer, which unfortunately the union has chosen not to present to its members but have decided to ballot and implement industrial action.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “The council recognises and values the contribution of our employees in helping to ensure the road network is treated during the winter months to provide a safe road network for the public, businesses and the emergency services.

“The council made a formal agreement with the trade unions in 2020 to cover winter maintenance duties. The agreement recognised the valuable contribution our employees make and provided them with a remuneration package which is one of the highest in Wales.

“The council has adhered to the terms and conditions of the negotiated agreement and has always worked to support our employees to provide a safe road network for our communities, businesses and emergency services, as far as reasonably practicable.  

“An increased offer was put to the trade unions to help secure the winter maintenance service. The offer is considered very reasonable and at the level of what the council can afford. Unfortunately, trade union colleagues have chosen not to present this offer to their members but have decided to ballot and implement a period of industrial action at this difficult time.

“These are extremely challenging times as COVID continues impact on communities and employee resource.

“The offer remains available to our employees and on the negotiating table with our trade unions. We hope that in the wider interest of our communities, our employees will give the offer due consideration.

“In the interim the council will implement its contingency plan to undertake gritting on a reduced resilient network.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s winter maintenance service ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along the highway is not endangered by snow or ice. To fulfil this duty, the council normally treats a primary network of 17 gritting routes along our main highways ahead of freezing weather, including 13 gritting routes along county roads (23% of network) and four trunk road routes. The resilient network includes the four trunk road routes. 

Residents are being reminded to be prepared and to drive responsibly during the winter months, and in particular to be mindful of changing weather conditions.

For further information on our winter maintenance service and advice on how to stay safe please visit the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Witness appeal after car is stolen and burnt out

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is investigating the theft of a car from a property in Lando Road, Burry Port, which was later found burnt out in Pembrey Country Park.

Officers are appealing for witnesses to the theft of the blue Ssangyong Rexton, which took place sometime between 5pm on Friday, 11th November, and 9am on Saturday, 12th November, and would like to speak to anyone who may have information or CCTV or dashcam footage.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: DP-20221112-109

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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