Gritter drivers quit over pay row with Stoke-on-Trent City Council
THIRTY-TWO gritter drivers have quit their jobs in a row over pay cuts – sparking fears of a winter roads crisis.
Their decision means Stoke-on-Trent City Council is heading into winter with just eight drivers on call for its gritting wagons.
It follows a move to cut £40,000 from the £480,000 winter maintenance bill by axing payments to drivers for being on standby.
Fears have been raised that the council may have to draft in costly agency workers – or leave streets without grit.
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The 40 drivers were previously paid to be on a standby rota from October and March, ready to be deployed at the first sign of a cold snap.
But drivers were told they will no longer be compensated for being on standby and will only be paid if they are called in to work. Payments for completing a gritting route have also been cut from a minimum of five hours pay to two hours.
Now 32 of the workers have refused to agree to the new terms.
All gritting drivers are employed in other roles with the council but have signed up for several years to top up their seasonal earnings.
One driver said: "Most of the lads have been doing this for years but they won't anymore.
"If you are on standby you have to change your plans. On Christmas day you can't have a drink. Why should we do it and not get the money?"
City Councillor Duncan Walker, a member of the GMB union which represents the drivers, said: "I wasn't aware of this and don't have the full facts.
"A lot of the drivers also drive bin lorries, and they would run out of the legal hours they are able to do. It would mean either roads not being gritted or bringing in agency workers – and that would cost a fortune because they'd know the council hasn't got any choice."
Council sources today accused drivers of deliberately trying to disrupt winter maintenance plans – and claim no concerns were raised until the day they were asked to sign up for new terms.
The council, which has nine gritting wagons, says it is 'confident' it will have enough cover.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for transport, said: "Due to the increasingly difficult financial pressures all services are being reviewed. We will now only pay for work done. If it takes five hours they will get paid for five hours, if it takes two hours, they will be paid for two hours. Roads will still be gritted if we get snow."