Bexley bin collections to resume whilst deal is ratified
Bin collections are to resume from tomorrow (25 August) in the London Borough of Bexley, whilst a deal between local waste collectors and contractor Serco is ratified.
Unite The Union has reported that its members have voted in favour of the deal, though it is expecting Serco to implement its promises in practice before considering a complete end to the industrial action, which has lasted over six weeks and resulted in a backlog of uncollected waste across the borough. The deal comprises a one-off £750 payout to 19 members off staff, contract changes that Serco asserts will ‘reduce pay disparities’, and steps to prevent the weaponisation of targeted drug and alcohol policy.
Throughout the strikes, Bexley Council has pointed the blame towards Unite for refusing to accept the terms set out by Serco, as well as recently rejecting an amended contract. Unite asserts that the council has had ample time and opportunity to prevent the strikes, accusing the governing body of delivering ‘empty words’.
Rubbish has been accumulating throughout the borough since 12 July, with local residents placing the onus on the council for failing to provide its constituents with an ‘essential service’, in light of industrial action being extended multiple times.
Bexley Council upholds that a skeleton crew of non-striking workers have been providing a degree of service all through the picket, ensuring that non-recyclable and rubbish bins have been collected, in spite of the build-up of recycling, food and garden waste. The council stresses that if industrial action is to resume, the remaining crews will be focussing on collecting this surplus of recycling and food waste.
Throughout the boycott, in order to assuage the excess of uncollected recyclable refuse, the council has extended the opening times of two recycling drop-off points into the evenings. By staying operational until 7pm rather than 4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the council states that it has seen 18 tonnes of reusable waste being collected.
Recently, Bexley Labour has lent support to Unite, criticising the council for remaining with the Serco contract in spite of reports of ‘poor working practices’ including pay disparities, removal of sickness benefits and ‘widespread use’ of zero-hour contracts. Bexley Council have historically insisted that both sides discuss the issues at hand, rather than holding local residents ‘hostage’ to the disruption of collections.
Unite regional officer, Tabusam Ahmed, commented: “We are pleased that a provisional deal has been reached following an improved offer from Serco.
“While the deal is being ratified, which we expect to happen by the end of the week, our members will go back to work and bin collections in Bexley will resume.
“Until this deal is enacted in full, however, strikes are being suspended and not cancelled, and our members retain the option to return to the picket line if they need to do so.”
Graeme Waugh, Senior Contract Manager, said: “I am confident that, with the support of ACAS, an amicable resolution to the strike action in Bexley has been found. We are working on the details of the agreement currently and are delighted that residents’ collections can recommence whilst this is being finalised.
“My team’s focus has now shifted to delivering the missed collections catch up following the industrial action and we are pleased with the commitment from Unite to fully support us during this process.
“I would like to thank residents for their continued patience and support while we strive to return to the normal collection schedule as soon as possible and apologise for the recent disruption and inconvenience they have had to endure.”