Unite warns Bexley Council ahead of bin strike

Trade union Unite has warned Bexley Council that its Serco-run ‘shoestring’ refuse and street cleaning contract risks ‘years of industrial unrest’, as two weeks of bin strikes began today.

The recently retendered contract aims to save Bexley Council around £2.5 million over the next five years, with Unite concerned about what this could mean for waste collectors.

Wheelie bins on streetThe warning came as around 140 Serco refuse and cleaning workers, who are members of Unite, began striking from today until 25 July, with a picket line between 5am and 10am being held every weekday at Thames Road Refuse Depot in Crayford.

Unite asserts that Serco has not included refuse and cleansing staff on a stipulated pay progression scale for five years.

The union also argues that there is a disparity in pay for workers doing the same jobs.

For example, in neighbouring Greenwich refuse staff earn a minimum of £13 an hour, compared to the £10.25 paid by Serco in Bexley.

The statement from the union continues, expressing that members are unhappy with the company’s 2021 pay rise of 1.5 per cent.

It also accuses Serco of the removal of industrial sickness benefits, as well as of ‘victimising’ its workers by conducting random workplace drug and alcohol tests through its substance misuse policy.

Unite regional officer, Ruth Hydon, commented: “Serco have backed our members into a corner with their pathetic pay offer, refusal to pay owed back wages and lack of fair pay.

“New drivers are paid £5k more than some experienced drivers.”

“These strikes, and the smell and disruption they will cause, will continue until Serco takes serious steps to resolve this issue by making pay fair, paying the back pay they owe and giving our members a decent pay rise.”

“Unite urges Bexley council to pressure Serco into bringing this dispute to end as soon as possible.”

“We understand that the council is facing financial difficulties, but we are also very concerned that planned £2.5 million cuts to the refuse contract will be borne by our members, who are already at breaking point.”

“There is a reason Serco is the only bidder and that is because the contract as it stands will only operate at a profit if services are run completely into the ground.

“Bexley residents are already sick and tired of Serco’s shoestring service provision, while our members' strike action speaks for itself.”

“If this contract goes ahead in its current form, it will pave the way for years of industrial unrest and taxpayer dissatisfaction.”

Bexley Council declined comment, stating the issue ‘concerns a dispute between Serco and its staff’