Refuse workers in London are to strike for two weeks from the day after Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral amid a wrenching dispute over pay.
Members of Unite, one of the biggest unions in the UK, in Newham announced yesterday they will walk out on September 20 until October 3.
Exhausted by years of low wage growth, 130 bin loaders, drivers and sweepers are demanding a wage hike to cope with the spiralling cost of living crisis.
Unite disputed claims from mayor Rokhsana Fiaz that trash truck drivers have been offered a pay deal of up to 17.9%.
This bump would amount to a ‘measly’ £950 only if they also work bank holidays compared to the £2,300 pay rise they’re asking for.
Why are Newham rubbish workers striking?
- There’s a lot of reasons refuse workers in Newham are striking, but pay is their biggest bugbear.
- They feel their current pay doesn’t keep up with spiralling price rises.
- Refuse workers in other London boroughs are also paid more.
- Talks failed to produce a settlement in August.
- 99% of members voted to take action because council bosses put an offer of just £850 a year for bank holiday working.
- They warned more would follow if the council did not meet them.
- The second phase of industrial action came after several unions paused ballot votes or postponed strikes due to the Queen’s death.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘The borough needs to stop peddling misinformation and get on with the job of negotiating an end to the strike.
‘Obviously, the workers would not be on strike if these claims about huge pay rises were real.’
Unite regional officer Steve Edwards said: ‘The council’s claim that these workers have been offered a deal worth up to 17.9 per cent is absolute rubbish.
‘In reality, the council has offered no new money to increase the workers’ basic pay – that’s why there’s a strike.
‘So, it’s time the council got serious about negotiating a deal because the workers are standing firm.’
Pickets will begin from 5:30am to 2pm each day of the strike at Central Depot along Folkstone Road.
The second round of striking comes after 99% of members voted for industrial action from August 27 to September 3.
Union members argue that refuse workers in Newham earn far less than their counterparts in neighbouring boroughs.
A waste and recycling service worker in Newham earns £22,850 compared to £24,763 for someone in Greenwich doing the same work.
In a statement to Metro.co.uk, corporate director for environment and sustainable transport at Newham Council Jamie Blake said he was ‘disappointed’ by the second wave of strikes.
He said the council will put in place measures to ease residents’ fears of overflowing rubbish bins.
‘But undoubtedly residents will face much more disruption than with the recent week-long strike,’ Mr Blake said.
‘It will also cause our staff serious financial hardship, one they could do without with the ongoing pressure of the cost of living crisis.’
Council bosses offered workers what Mr Black claimed was a ‘fair ideal on top of a national pay offer’.
He said: ‘In addition, this year we made a retention payment of £2,000 to all waste service lorry drivers and have also agreed to extend this for 2023.
‘With the fair deal we are offering our waste teams they will be amongst the best paid with other outer London Authorities.
‘It would see loaders taking home an extra £265 every month (£3,179 a year) and drivers £431 extra every month (£5,179 a year). This takes the annual salary of a loader to £25,754 per year and for a driver a starting salary of £28,470.
‘This was agreed before the first strike action and we’ve made further offers despite our financial constraints,’ he added.
Yet the refuse workers in Newham are in no way alone in their frustrations.
For nearly two weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland, takeout boxes and coffee cups spilt out of dumpsters and wheelie bins after refuse workers striked last month.
It was one of the dozens of strikes that have swept the UK as workers struggle with sky-high inflation, soaring energy and food costs and rocketing rents.
The labour unrest has seen transport workers, post office staff and barristers, among other hundreds of thousands of union members strike for increased pay.
Some strikers have proposed pay increases that at the time seemed high.
But they warn that by the end of the year, with the Bank of England predicting inflation will reach 13%, that increase would actually be a pay cut in buying power.
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