A THREATENED strike by refuse collectors due to start today was averted, after talks that went on late into the night.

Rossendale binmen were threatening the first of six one-day strikes in support of their campaign for equal pay and conditions with other council workers.

Councillors, council bosses and officials of the GMB union were locked in talks all yesterday and late into the night.

A deal thrashed out during negotiations was being put to the 20 refuse collectors' shop stewards today. Union officers agreed to call off the day of action to give shop stewards the chance to look at the new deal. Binmen were expected to report for work as normal.

Coun Keith Wright, chairman of the council's direct labour organisation committee, said he hoped shop stewards would recommend acceptance.

Coun Wright said, because of the limits of the refuse collection contract, which was won by the council through competitive tendering, no new money was available.

But he hoped a package which includes consolidation of some bonuses, better holidays and improved sick pay terms would be acceptable. He said: "I'm 95 per cent certain the deal will be acceptable. We hope to hold a special meeting of the DLO committee in 10 days' time to ratify the new deal."

The council won back the refuse collection contract from French-owned Sita three years ago. Coun Wright said ever since then, council bosses had been working to improve the pay and conditions of the binmen, which had fallen below those enjoyed by other DLO workers. Average wage rates for the 20 workers are below £4 an hour.

But because the council has to bid for the contract every year, the amount it can pay the staff is limited.

Emergency measures to deal with the threatened strikes during April, May and June had already been drawn up by council bosses.

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