Government

Unite doubles down on Bexley bin strikes

Unite has doubled down on warnings of a ‘long hot stinking summer in Bexley’ as Serco bin strikes continue, meaning rubbish will remain uncollected into August.

Around 140 workers began striking over ‘pay and other issues’ on 12 July, with this round of strike action coming to an end on 25 July.

Bins on streetUnite has announced that the strike will resume today, however, and will continue until the beginning of August, with more strike dates set to be announced.

The workers will hold daily pickets outside the Thames Road refuse depot in Crayford.

The strikes will continue despite Bexley Council having announced that Serco’s contract will not be renewed when it expires in October, with Countrystyle Recycling taking over instead.

The council has pledged that staff on the contract, who will all be transferred from Serco, will be paid at least the London living wage in the future.

Unite has consistently called for Serco to be removed from the contract, opposing what they consider a ‘failure to include refuse staff on a stipulated pay progression scale’.

Unite claims that other issues within Serco’s management of the contract include the ‘refusal to pay staff back wages’, ‘widespread pay disparities’, and the ‘victimising of union members through the unfair policing of its substance misuse policy.’

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon commented: “Serco is determined by its actions to ensure there is a long hot stinking summer in Bexley.

“Whilst it was about time that Bexley Council got rid of poor performing Serco and our members can look forward to some improvements in their terms and conditions come October, several issues remain unresolved.

“Our members want an immediate end to pay disparities and many are owed tens of thousands in back pay.

“We will not let Serco or the council skirt around that fact, or its weaponisation of drug testing, until it can walk away from the contract in autumn.

“Bexley Council needs to get a handle on this and intervene, otherwise rubbish will continue to pile up on the borough’s streets.”

Graeme Waugh, Senior Contract Manager at Serco, said: “It is always our intention to work in partnership with trade unions so we are disappointed the decision to take further strike action has been made while conciliation discussions are ongoing and would urge Unite to reconsider this action.

“We have prioritised refuse and food waste collections and offer our apologies to any residents whose collections have been missed because of this strike action.

“Our frontline teams are working exceptionally hard, often beyond their contracted hours, to minimise disruptions to residents and I would like to personally thank each of them for their continued help and support.

“Unite has submitted a 10 per cent pay claim in Bexley for 2021 which we believe is out of sync with the current environment.

“We believe the offer we have made, in the context of pay freezes across the Public Sector and the current economic climate, is a fair and reasonable offer.”