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Wirral refuse workers ballot for strike action in Biffa pay dispute

Strike ballots opened in Wirral on Merseyside on Wednesday (11 March) for Biffa Waste Services refuse workers belonging to the trade union Unite following a pay dispute.An image of Wallasey Town Hall

The dispute began last year when Biffa, which holds the waste contract for Wirral Council, refused to meet Unite’s pay demand for 180 refuse workers. Following the transition to monthly pay, Unite claims workers are left without the safeguards to ensure they receive the correct amount when paid.

Unite says that it proposed a measure that if pay was calculated incorrectly by £50 or more, it would be corrected within seven days, which Biffa refused.

The Biffa Waste Services workers have until the 25 March to cast their vote for strike action. Strikes could begin after the Easter holidays if the members vote in favour.

So far negotiations of a pay settlement, mediated by the conciliation service Acas, have not reached a resolution, but both sides have stated their commitment to reaching an agreement.

Unite Regional Officer Steve Gerrard said: “Biffa’s failure to meet the pay claim, and its high-handed manner in trying to force through monthly pay, has left workers with no option but to ballot for strike action. If strikes go ahead it will cause considerable disruption and rubbish will quickly start to pile up on the streets of the Wirral.”

Unite has sought to underline its case by pointing out that one of Biffa’s directors receives a salary of £1 million each year, saying: “Wirral residents need to ask if Biffa has got its priorities right.”

“Biffa claims it can’t afford to meet the pay claim of our members, despite paying a director a telephone number salary. Wirral residents need to ask if Biffa has got its priorities right.

“Even at this late stage Biffa can still avoid a strike by making a reasonable pay offer and enter into proper negotiations on monthly pay.”

A Biffa spokesperson responded: “We have been in talks with our employees and their representatives and have offered a generous pay increase which is in excess of the current wage inflation indices. We remain committed to continuing the dialogue to reach an amicable conclusion with our employees and their representatives on this matter.”

Refuse workers in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Bexley have also sought to take industrial action over pay. In February, Bexley refuse workers held a ballot for strike action over low wages and bullying. This week, employees of Veolia Waste Company are striking over unsettled holiday pay. Unite claims 150 Veolia workers are owed holiday pay in arrears, amounting in some cases to £9,000. 

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