Belfast City Council under fire for failing to empty bins over festive period
Residents in some areas of Belfast may face a wait of up to four weeks before their blue recycling bins are emptied.
Bins were not collected before Christmas and are not due to be picked up until January, with Belfast City Council blaming staffing issues for the problem.
The council has apologised for the inconvenience, but the issue has prompted one resident to call for a refund on rates.
Stephen O'Neill, who lives in the Malone Road area, told the Belfast Telegraph: "The rescheduled recycling bin collection due on Sunday, December 23, as publicised online when I checked earlier that week, didn't happen, so it will be a whole month between blue bin pick-ups.
"By my calculations, based on my rates bill and that bin collections are the only council service I actually avail of, I reckon that I am due a refund of about £40.
"Am I reimbursed automatically, or do I have to apply for it?
"While he admitted his comments were half tongue-in-cheek", he added: "There's just me and my wife, but I feel for anyone with family living at home who can't get their rubbish removed.
"There are a lot of people working over the holidays and over Saturday and Sunday. Why should it be different for bin men?
"Surely the council knew the dates for Christmas and this wasn't a last minute reorganisation.
"Could it not have been sorted last June?"
In west Belfast Patrick O'Kane said the problem is not only concerning the blue bins, some areas haven't had black bins collected either.
"It is not solely the collection of blue recycling bins which Belfast City Council have failed on," he said.
"The residents of Dungloe Cresent and Mulroy Park did not receive collection of their black bins on Monday, December 24.
"Most residents had their bins out on Saturday, December 22 for fear that the waste collectors would arrive early.
"They have failed to show up all week, and I cannot receive a solid collection date from City Hall."
The council said: "Due to staffing levels, it has not been possible to provide an alternative collection for blue recycling bins over the Christmas and New Year period.
"This information was communicated to residents last week as widely as possible via the council's website and social media channels.
"We apologise for the inconvenience.
"Where possible, we would encourage residents to bring any recyclable materials to their local recycling centre and keep an eye on our website and social media for the most up to date information.
"We would ask residents who have a scheduled black/brown bin collection this weekend and their bin does not get emptied on the day, to please continue to leave it out and we will collect it as soon as possible in the coming days."
Before the Christmas holiday period a confidential memo by a senior council official was leaked, stating that bin collections could be disrupted due to a pay dispute with staff and trade unions.
Nigel Grimshaw, the council's strategic director of city and neighbourhood services, said that staff would be paid time and a half for working on a Saturday (December 22), and double time on Sunday (December 23).
"However, trade unions and some staff have asked for more money to work on the above days," he added.
"Their proposal would in effect equate to triple time.
"To accept this proposal without proper consideration would likely cause a precedent.
"It would mean applying the same arrangements to other service areas that are provided over this period.
"This could cost the council up to £100,000 additional payroll costs and would have to come out of council reserves as there is no budget for their proposal."
Belfast SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said there had been a breakdown in communication between trade unions and the council.
"We resolved that (issue) in relation to the black and brown bins, but not for the blue bins," he said.
"It means some blue bins won't be picked up, and normally that would not be a problem, but obviously it's Christmas and that will cause difficulties.
"The trade unions and council had been talking about special payments around Christmas.
"Not everything was resolved, and it is unfortunate to say the least.
Councillor Attwood added: "Hopefully we can ensure there is good communication and these issues are ironed out in the future, well in advance of Christmas."