Forty refuse workers, employed by employment agency Templink and engaged by Serco on Sandwell council's outsourced refuse collection contract, have secured a huge victory concerning equal pay rates and are set to receive substantial back pay.

Back pay

The affected workers will now receive back pay of between £2,000 and £7,000 and Unite, which represents the workforce, is working to ensure that the money is paid before Christmas.

The workers, who have been working on the contract for up to two years, have been paid at a lower rate than permanent staff. Under the agency directive rules they should receive the same rates of pay as permanent staff.

Hourly pay increase

As well as the back pay, the workers will also receive a substantial increase in their hourly rate. Drivers will receive an additional £2.29 an hour, while loaders will see their pay increase by £1.70 an hour.

The underpayment case has been championed by local rep Deb Melia, who is a refuse driver. She has been pursuing the underpayment since May this year with Sandwell council. The conciliation service Acas has been involved in the dispute and the workers also made employment tribunal claims.

Excellent victory

Unite regional officer Simon O’Keeffe said: “This is an excellent victory for this group of agency workers.

 “The agency workers undertake exactly the same roles as permanent staff and they deserve to receive the same rates of pay.

 “This victory demonstrates what can be achieved if agency workers get organised – securing a level playing field and winning fair pay can be obtained.

 “Special tribute must go to Deb Melia, without her hard work it is very unlikely that the affected workers would now be receiving the higher pay rates and back pay that they fully deserve.”


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