There is ‘no end in sight’ to the Bexley bin strikes in South London, Unite, the UK’s leading union said today (Tuesday 17 August), as it accused council leader Teresa O’Neill of ‘abdicating her responsibility to residents’.

The strikes, involving 140 refuse workers employed by Serco, began on July 12 and the workers are now in their sixth week of strike action in a dispute over pay and the victimisation of workers.

Talks between Serco and the workers' union, Unite, collapsed last week after the outsourcing giant refused to address the tens of thousands of pounds of back pay owed to a number of employees. 

This money is owed because Serco has failed to pay workers according to stipulated pay scales. This has resulted in existing drivers being paid just £22,000 a year, while new recruits are paid £28,000 for the same roles. 

The union said Bexley council has watched the dispute, which could see rubbish pilling up on the borough’s streets until October, develop for months without trying to find a solution. 

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “It is a well-known fact that local authorities are responsible for bin collections. That is except if it's Bexley council, whose leadership appears to believe they are above having to deal with issues like clearing the borough’s rubbish.  

“They are aware of how appallingly Serco have handled Bexley’s street cleaning and refuse contract because they will not be renewing it when it ends in October. Yet the council sat back for 18 months while this dispute got worse and worse and are still doing little to nothing to end it.

“The Conservative-controlled Derbyshire Dales district council directly intervened with Serco to resolve issues of pay disparity, so should Bexley.

“Serco wants to deny our members the back pay they are owed and continues to bully and intimidate workers for standing up for themselves – behaviour which appears to be sanctioned at senior levels. Serco does not seem interested in getting services back to normal and it is clear it will only be moved if the council intervenes.

“It is not good enough for Teresa O’Neill to abdicate her responsibility to residents by stating the dispute is solely between Unite and Serco. Ms O’Neill’s council handed Serco the contract and it is they who are ultimately culpable for sorting this mess out. 

“Our members are keen to end this dispute as soon as possible but Serco must improve its offer. Until that happens there is no end in sight to the bin strikes.”


Bexley Serco bin strikes could last until October without council intervention

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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.