The threat of strike action by Bromley refuse workers has ‘doubled their money’ with an increased pay offer, which sets an example for other firms that provide outsourced local government services.
About 100 workers, employed by waste disposal giant Veolia, had threatened three days of strikes after overwhelmingly rejecting a one per cent pay offer – but now after talks at the conciliation service Acas, the company’s improved offer of two per cent has been accepted.
The stance of the refuse collectors, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, has been described as a wake-up call for other companies used by local authorities in England that they don’t have to slavishly adhere to chancellor George Osborne’s notional one per cent annual pay cap for public sector workers.
Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “It is ‘a smell the coffee’ moment for those outsourcing companies which view local government contracts as a massive money-spinner at the expense of those that actually do the work on behalf of the local communities.
“This is a great victory and a true example of solidarity by our Bromley members – and shows that these companies don’t have to slavishly kow-tow to the pay diktats of George Osborne.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The threat of strike action brought the company to the Acas negotiating table and the result is a one year two per cent pay offer on all hourly rates backdated to April 2015. We also gained a significant increase in sick pay.
“It was the very real threat of strike action that led to the improved offer. The campaign at Veolia benefited from the Bromley council strike campaign - the proof was the visit to the depot by leading Bromley councillors worried about the anger of residents over uncollected stinking rubbish.”
Veolia was awarded the contract by Bromley council – and Unite has said that this dispute was another example of the flawed nature of the controversial authority’s mass privatisation programme which relies on cutting services and slashing wages.
The Conservative-dominated council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves.
The dispute comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.
The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite regional officer Onay Kasab on 07771 818637 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
The main points of Fair Deal For Local Government campaign are:
• if services are performing well, leave them in house
• if they are not performing well, look at ways of putting it right in house
• when contracting out services, over 50 per cent of the consideration should be about quality rather than cost
• fair employment rights for transferred staff – no zero hours contracts, pay the ‘living wage’, no downward pay and conditions harmonisation
The campaign website is http://uniteforpublicservices.org/index.php
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.