Unite the union warned Bexley council that its ‘shoestring’ refuse and street cleaning contract, which is run by Serco, risks ‘years of industrial unrest’ as two weeks of bin strikes began today (Monday 12 July).

The refuse and cleaning contract has recently been retendered by Bexley council. 

The warning came as around 140 Serco refuse and cleaning workers, who are members of Unite, began striking from today until 25 July, with a picket line between 5am and 10am being held every weekday (see notes to editors for location).

Outsourcing giant Serco has failed for half a decade to include refuse and cleansing staff on a stipulated pay progression scale. The situation has led to instances of refuse truck drivers being on the same pay scale as street sweepers, with some staff being owed thousands in back wages. 

Unite members are also angry at the company’s 2021 pay offer of 1.5 per cent. Unite members have worked throughout successive national lockdowns to keep the service running, risking their own safety as well as that of their families.

Refuse staff in Bexley earn much less than their counterparts in other areas of the capital. For example, in neighbouring Greenwich refuse staff earn a minimum of £13 an hour, compared to £10.25 paid by Serco in Bexley, which is below even the London Living Wage.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Serco have backed our members into a corner with their pathetic pay offer, refusal to pay owed back wages and lack of fair pay. New drivers are paid £5k more than some experienced drivers. 

“These strikes, and the smell and disruption they will cause, will continue until Serco takes serious steps to resolve this issue by making pay fair, paying the back pay they owe and giving our members a decent pay rise.

“Unite urges Bexley council to pressure Serco into bringing this dispute to end as soon as possible.

“Bexley residents are already sick and tired of Serco’s shoestring service provision, while our members strike action speaks for itself. If this contract goes ahead in its current form, it will pave the way for years of industrial unrest and taxpayer dissatisfaction.”


Notes to editors: 

A 5am to 10am picket line will be held each weekday between 12 July and 25 July at Thames Road Refuse Depot, Crayford, DA1 5QJ.

‘Summer stink’ to hit Bexley as Serco refuse workers strike

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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.