Refuse workers employed by Newham council could have lost more than £20,000 each in the last decade in a dispute over grading, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 10 April).

The 45 refuse workers will be balloted for strike action from 23 April over the council’s failure to progress them through the grading structure which should, as agreed, have commenced 12 years ago in 2007/2008. The ballot closes on 21 May.

Unite calculates that the potential loss of pay because of the failure to upgrade the workers amounts to £1,760 a year – a total of £21,000 over the last 12 years, depending on the service record of individual workers.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Newham council has repeatedly failed to live up to the agreement it signed more than a decade ago for the progression from grade 3 to grade 4 and then grade 5 on the national pay scales, if the refuse workers had satisfactory appraisals.

“It is a stain on this council’s reputation that it has ‘ducked-and-dived’ in avoiding honouring this agreement  - the grievance complaint that Unite lodged on this issue was not heard until June 2018.

“The council bosses have admitted that they failed to implement the scheme, but, curiously, they have not been able to say why they agreed to it in the first place when they had no intention of implementing it.

“We estimate that, depending on individual circumstances, refuse workers could have lost up to £21,000 in back pay – a considerable sum for this relatively lowly paid group of workers who are out in all weathers. 

“This is an issue of basic trust and if the employer is allowed to get away with not implementing the agreement, then it will be emboldened to do so again and again – eventually affecting every council employee adversely.

“Time after time, we have asked the council to implement the scheme, but it has continuously declined to – and that’s why we holding this strike ballot to show that employers can’t ride roughshod over freely entered into agreements to the detriment to our members.”


Notes to editors:

Based on 2018 figures, the top of grade 3 is £22,858. The top of grade 4 is £24,618. Therefore, leaving aside the potential to progress to grade 5, that is a potential loss of £1,760 each year from 2007/08.

The national agreement is the Green Book - also known as the National Joint Council (NJC). The pay grades are as per the Greater London Provincial Council (GLPC) scheme.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065

Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.