Home Breaking News Bexley binmen end ‘summer of stink’ and go from lowest to one...

Bexley binmen end ‘summer of stink’ and go from lowest to one of the highest paid refuse workers in London

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Bexley binmen’s strike action has led to an offer of increased wages, holiday pay, more holiday days and sick pay.

The end of the strikes put a stop to the so-called ‘summer of stink’ in the borough because of the overfilled bins.

The environmental services at Bexley Council have been outsourced for nearly 20 years, with the refuse collection services contract awarded to private company Serco.

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The service was therefore not the council’s responsibility so the binmen were protesting against Serco’s treatment of staff.

Last year the refuse collectors first decided to take action and in their initial strike they won the right to a company sick pay policy, something that hasn’t been in place before.

Bins in Bexley were left overfilled in the ‘summer of stink’.

Before a break in protest due to the pandemic they made commitments to continue to address the ‘huge pay disparity that the council and their contractor had allowed to develop’.

Re-starting the industrial action at the start of this summer, they handed out thousands of leaflets, which were posted in residential areas by striking workers.

They specifically targeted the areas in which local councillors lived.

Workers also went on residents’ Facebook groups to argue their case and highlight the unfair treatment they had been given.

They created such a surge in support that 50 angry residents called in to BBC London’s Vanessa Feltz radio show, to demand that the council take action.

After seven weeks of strikes, which left bins in the area overflowing, the workers were promised what they wanted.

They have gained a considerable pay rise, extra holidays and a bunch of commitments from Serco to change working practices.

Bin workers came together to fight for better rights

Bin workers came together to fight for better rights

As a result of the strikes Serco will give over its control of Bexley street cleaning and refuse collection contract to Countrystyle Recycling.

This will see the lowest paid workers receive a pay rise of 11 per cent with rates increasing to £11.50 an hour, above the real London Living Wage of £10.85, as well as pay rises for staff on other grades.

Some drivers, previously on £22,000 a year because of Serco’s failure to pay workers according to stipulated pay scales, will see their wages increase to more than £30,000 when they transfer to Countrystyle.

The deal with Countrystyle also sees staff receive an extra five days annual leave as well as 12 weeks of industrial injury sick pay that was denied them by Serco.

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The workers were represented by their trade union, UNITE.

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “Our members refused to be cowed by the immense pressure put on them by Serco and Bexley council.

“Nobody wanted to take strike action but both Serco’s and Bexley council’s actions left them no other choice.

“Fortunately, an agreement has now been reached and Unite looks forward to working productively with both Serco and Bexley council now the strikes are over.

“But this dispute should be a lesson to Bexley council that workers who deliver services on behalf of the local authority cannot just be abandoned and ignored because they are outsourced to private companies who have race to the bottom employment practices.

“The agreement with Serco is a major win for our members, as is the agreement with Countrystyle, both of which were achieved due to strong union organisation.

“The fact that Bexley refuse staff are now moving from the worst comparable pay rates in London to some of the best is a prime example of why workers looking to improve their wages and conditions should join Unite.”

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Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, leader of Bexley Council, said: “We would like to thank all our residents for their patience during this difficult time and all the local people and volunteers who have helped others in the community

“Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the strike means that it will be some time before collections return to normal.”

The council will therefore be continuing to operate weekend recycling sessions in car parks, whilst waste and recycling sites will continue to open later.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/bexley-binmen-end-summer-stink-21610925