Thurrock strikes called off after Unite reaches agreement with council

Strike action announced last week by waste collection workers in Thurrock has been suspended following lengthy negotiations with the council.

65 waste workers at Thurrock council belonging to the Unite union declared their intention to stage a series of walkouts from 12 April in protest over the installation of ‘big brother style’ 360-degree cameras to be attached to waste collection vehicles, prompting fears that managers would use the cameras to spy on workers, residents and the general running of the waste collection service.

However, following negotiations held yesterday (5 April), Thurrock council has agreed that rather than allowing images from the cameras to be streamed directly to managers’ desks and phones, footage will only be available to view by the agreed designated senior members of the data protection and information management team at the council.

Thurrock strikes called off after Unite reaches agreement with council

All other council officers wishing to view the footage will have to make a recorded written request in line with agreed procedures. Furthermore, Unite will receive a quarterly report on which officials have requested to view footage, with information provided on a spot check should the union have a specific concern regarding an incident.

The outcome of the negotiations also saw the council forced to accept that the waste collection service currently in place was not working properly, and that measures must be taken to improve the functioning of the service. There was also agreement on Saturday payments to workers, trade union discrimination and the lack of facility time.

While the council draws up a formal legal agreement on these matters, Unite has called off the first three 48-hour strikes which were due to begin on 12 April, 19 April and 26 April.

The 72-hour strike beginning at 00:01 on Tuesday 1 May and the 24-hour strikes due to begin on 16, 23 and 30 May will remain in place until the dispute is formally resolved.

Unite Regional Officer Michelle Cook said: “Unite had always made it clear that we believed that this dispute could be resolved by sensible negotiations and this has proved to be exactly the case.

“Providing the council puts into writing what it has promised then the residents of Thurrock will be spared the misery of having their waste collection severely disrupted through strike action.

“In good faith Unite has called off the first three planned strikes but the later action remains in place to ensure that Thurrock council does not renege on the promises it has made.

“Hopefully this dispute will be resolved and we can move forward to ensure that the ongoing crisis in the waste collection service is resolved and the people of Thurrock receive the decent service which they are fully entitled to.”

A statement released by the Communications Team at Thurruck council added: "After coming to agreement with Thurrock Council, strike action proposed by Unite during the month of April has been called off. This is great news for our residents, as it means that their waste service will now not be disrupted. 

"The council met with Unite again yesterday, as part of the ongoing discussions. We addressed misunderstandings and clarified our intended usage of the cameras with Unite and the Council's position on their use has not changed since the start. 

"We are pleased that Unite's understanding of the position is now clear and that we can continue to provide these important services to our residents. All our officers are valued by the council and we are pleased to have a reached this agreement."

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