WINTER gritting could grind to a halt in Carmarthenshire due to a long-running dispute about pay, unions have said.

The vast majority of the county’s gritter workers, who are employed in the council’s highways department, are union members.

They mostly grit roads in the evenings, when conditions require, earning overtime rates of pay.

Peter Hill, GMB union regional organiser, said the dispute centred around the county council’s offer of a weekly retainer payment in addition to overtime, which GMB members felt was too low.

The GMB has balloted its 52 Carmarthenshire gritter workers about taking strike action and action short of a strike, such as refusing to do any overtime.

It said that 75 per cent of those who voted were in favour of strike action, while 89 per cent also voted for action short of a strike.

Mr Hill claimed that gritter workers used to receive standby pay which was higher than the weekly retainer offer, and that overtime rates also used to be higher.

“It has come to a head over the last year,” he said.

“Unless there is an enhanced offer, they (our members) will look to take action.”

The council said it was awaiting the outcome of other union ballots.

GMB’s Mr Hill said its members were now being consulted about whether to take action on certain dates, or to implement continuous action, although they would carry out their normal highways duties during the day.

He said: “Our members are fully aware that they keep the roads safe, and they don’t want to be getting to a situation where they are endangering anybody.

“We are not talking about huge sums of money here. If they (the council) are willing to negotiate properly they could avoid this situation.”

He said the GMB could take unilateral action but was looking to Unison and Unite to follow its lead.

The results of Union’s ballot of its 20 members results are expected later today, while Unite’s are expected this week.

Mark Evans, Carmarthenshire county Unison branch secretary, said he was confident that its members would vote in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike.

“They (the council) need to make a significantly better offer,” he said.

“It’s a dangerous job. We don’t feel our members are being recompensed for the job they are doing.”

Carmarthenshire has more than 2,000 miles of road.

Stephen Pilliner, the council’s head of highways and transport, said: “One trade union has notified the authority of the outcome of the ballot of members for industrial action.

“The authority is awaiting the outcome of ballots from other trades unions. Our discussions with the unions will continue.”