North Herts binmen have voted to go on strike in a row over sick pay and wages, which could mean "household rubbish piling up and street waste left unswept" over Christmas, the trade union has warned.

The GMB Union wants council waste contractor Urbaser to increase its pay offer to workers and introduce a company sick pay scheme.

After negotiations failed, 90 per cent of GMB members who voted in a ballot were in favour of strike action.

The strike, which will begin at the end of November if a deal is not reached, could mean 70 GMB members, including bin lorry drivers, rubbish collectors and road sweepers, picketing Urbaser workplaces in Letchworth and Buntingford until there is a resolution.

It will affect services in east and north Herts, with Urbaser contracted by both North Herts Council and East Herts Council.

Local GMB officer Michael Dooley said: "This could mean household rubbish piling up and street waste left unswept by our members from the end of the month right through to January, or longer.

"We have taken this course because we do not think it is reasonable for workers who graft in all weathers, in filth and grime to go without company sick pay if they fall ill, and we have members working for Urbaser on minimum wage who deserve better.

"We cannot see an alternative to Urbaser's intransigent stance. Their position is not a penny of company sick pay will be paid, which is outrageous in our country in this day and age."

A spokesperson for Urbaser said: "We have been officially notified by the GMB Union of an impending strike at our Letchworth and Buntingford depots due to a pay dispute. The dates for the proposed strike action have been confirmed from November 29 until December 24.

"We wish to clarify that the demands put forward by the Union greatly exceed our current proposal, which is both comparable with pay rates within the local authority and is consistent with the National Joint Council (NJC) settlement.

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"Given the NJC settlement was agreed upon by GMB members in a ballot that concluded in October, we view the demands as being wholly unjustified.

"While we are not able to meet the unrealistic aspirations of the Trade Union, we do hope to reengage in constructive discussions and hope they will suspend the action whilst talks are progressing.

"In the meantime, we would like to reassure residents that we are working closely with the local authorities and taking proactive measures to minimise any disruption to front line services in the event of a strike.