Refuse workers based in Bexley – the London borough with the capital’s best recycling record - are to hold a ballot for strike action over low wages and a bullying culture.

The ballot of about 120 refuse depot workers, who are employed by controversial outsourcing giant Serco, will open on Tuesday (4 February). It closes on Friday 21 February.

On Monday (27 January), the refuse workers, members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, protested outside the Bexley council cabinet meeting over the authority’s contract with Serco which sees the workforce earning about £4 an hour less than their counterparts in Greenwich.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Our members do a physically exhausting job working long and unsocial hours. They have to work when they are sick or face being unable to pay their bills and, on top of that, they are bullied by managers. ‘Enough is enough’.

“As a result, we are now holding a ballot for strike action which could cause serious disruption to the borough’s refuse and recycling services.

“Ironically, Bexley has best recycling record of London’s 32 boroughs and is ranked 46th of England’s 345 local authorities, according to the government’s own data – a tribute to our members’ hard work and dedication in all weathers.

“If ever there were a strong and irrefutable case for a pay rise, this has been provided by the information collected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

“However, our members are currently languishing on £8.90 or £9.15 an hour for working 42 hours a week – we are demanding at least £13 an hour which is what similar workers in next door Greenwich are being paid.

“The other issues, which need to be urgently addressed, include the lack of  sick pay, a culture of managerial bullying, unsafe working practices, and a continued failure to deal with grievances in a fair and timely fashion.

“Bexley council should be making sure Serco is paying a wage our members can live on.”

Notes to editors:

The link on council recycling rates:

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.