UNIONS are threatening strike action that could bring a halt to widespread road gritting this winter.
Members of GMB, Unite and Unison who work for Amey Highways have already voted to reject the company’s proposals over pay and hours.
Amey holds the contract with Hampshire County Council until 2016 to maintain 5,000 miles of roads – including winter gritting, with 200 workers at depots around the county.
The company’s proposals include a move to annualised hours which removes the workers’ ability to get paid overtime at premium rates, as well as cutting pensions.
Malcolm Bonnett, Unite regional officer, blamed Amey for trying to maximise profits – it made £84m last year – at the workers’ expense.
He said: ‘Amey is trying to squeeze out even more profits from its contract with Hampshire County Council at the expense of workers who are out fixing the county’s non-motorway roads in all weathers.
‘Unfortunately, if industrial action goes ahead, the gritting of roads won’t happen in the comprehensive fashion that would need to be done during a severe cold snap. Huge disruption is on the cards.
‘Our members really don’t want this, as it will increase the hazards for motorists – but they are victims of Amey’s greedy quest for profits.’
Adrian Baker, GMB regional officer, added: ‘It is the company which has created the position whereby members of the three largest unions in the UK have come together to oppose the proposals on the table. A consultative ballot of all union members working on highways has shown 100 per cent support for industrial action.’
Councillor Mel Kendal, in charge of transport matters at the council, said: ‘Naturally we hope that this dispute can be resolved to the mutual agreement of both parties and that industrial action can be avoided but if this is not the case, we are working with Amey to ensure that we have plans in place to ensure that winter salting of A and B roads would be carried out as needed.’
Motorways, trunk roads and roads in Portsmouth and Southampton are excluded from the contract.
A spokeswoman from Amey said it had held ‘constructive’ meetings with employees and there would be another meeting next week. She added: ‘Amey strongly refutes the allegations made by Unite regarding our service levels and safety on the contract; the safety of our employees and Hampshire residents remains of paramount importance to us.’