Homes across England could face a build up of rubbish after a rejected pay rise for council workers raised fears of bin collectors going on strike.
Members of the GMB and Unite unions voted against the 1.75% offer, which union officials described as “pathetic”, with the threat of strike action adding to fears of a ‘winter of discontent’.
The GMB said that with RPI inflation running at 4.8%, the offer represents a real terms pay cut after a decade of austerity.
School support staff could also be part of any strike action, the GMB said.
GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “School staff, refuse collectors and council workers have kept our country moving through the coronavirus crisis, often putting themselves in harm’s way.
“They’ve had their pay slashed by 23% in real terms during a decade of austerity – now they’re being offered yet another pay cut. It’s offensive.
“GMB will urge local government employers to get back round the table and improve the pay offer or we will have no alternative but to begin preparing for industrial action.”
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An overwhelming majority of Unison’s 400,000 members who took part in a month-long consultation exercise also voted to reject the offer .
The union said the proposed deal fell well short of the 10% claim put forward with the GMB and Unite.
Unison members will now be asked to back industrial action in support of the union’s campaign for better pay.
Unite’s 70,000 local government members voted by 4-1 to reject the offer earmarked for council staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members have made a huge contribution to keep public services running during the continuing COVID crisis.
“They have held our services together at a time of national emergency. This resounding vote shows their anger at this insulting offer.
“With the cost of living soaring and tax hikes on the way, Unite is determined to ensure the Local Government Association thinks again and offers our members the fair and decent pay they undeniably deserve.”
Last week, health workers rejected the government’s proposed 3% pay rise, while Unite, which represents 100,000 members in the health service, said it will now plan for a comprehensive programme of “targeted industrial action” in the coming months.
Rising energy bills and the petrol crisis may also add to the woes for chancellor Rishi Sunak and the government.
Tory MP David Morris said last month that the situation feels reminiscent to that of the 1970s, when a series of economic crises culminated in major disruption in 1978.
"Well, I've got to say to you, I can remember the winter of discontent and I remember what was building up to it and this to me feels very reminiscent," he told the BBC.
"I'm hoping that doesn't happen."
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