Government

Unite workers in Thurrock to strike over concerns with council’s waste management

Waste workers employed by Thurrock council are set to strike from 12 April in a dispute caused by what has been dubbed the ‘rubbish management’ of the council’s waste collection service.

In a little over two weeks, 65 workers who are members of the Unite union will stage walkouts in protest of what they perceive as a refusal on the part of the management to listen to their concerns.

Unite workers in Thurrock to strike over concerns with council’s waste management
Thurrock Council plans to place CCTV on bin lorries, like this camera installed by Boston Borough Council

The workers’ greatest concern is the installation and use of what they describe as ‘big brother style’ cameras on bin lorries, which they claim will livestream 360-degree pictures directly to the manager’s desk. It is feared these will allow management to spy on workers and residents, monitor what residents place in their bins and be used as evidence to block collections to certain homes.

The workforce is also taking action over the perceived ‘chaos’ of Thurrock's collection service, which they say is resulting in some crews being instructed to mix all collected waste together on the collection vehicle, even if it has been sorted by residents.

The management’s new collection system, which was introduced in May 2017 and sees all collection vehicles arriving at once in certain areas, has also come under fire, with claims that workers and residents are being subjected to noise pollution and that the collections are causing access problems for road users.

The first of the series of 48-hour strikes will begin at midnight on Thursday 12 April, with further 48-hour strikes beginning on Thursday 19 April and Thursday 26 April.

There will then be a 72-hour strike beginning at midnight on Tuesday 1 May. This will be followed by a series of 24-hour strikes on 16, 23 and 30 May.

Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said: “Strike action has been called because quite frankly the council’s management is rubbish and they have not been prepared to listen to the genuine deep seated concerns of the workforce.

“There is absolutely no need for live cameras. This is not Celebrity Love Island, these are people’s homes. Management should stop trying to recreate the Truman Show and instead concentrate on rebuilding the performance of the refuse service and improving staff morale.

“Sadly, the strike action is inevitably going to cause disruption to Thurrock residents and workers are only taking action as a very last resort because of the council’s attitude.

“It is not too late for strike action to be averted. Management need to acknowledge the error of their ways and drop the plans for the big brother cameras and then sit down to resolve our concerns.”

Thurrock Council has been contacted for comment.

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