Residents of Sandwell, in the West Midlands, are facing a smelly summer as refuse workers employed by outsourcer Serco have announced strike action, as the company has refused to make a reasonable pay offer.

Strike action

Sixty members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, employed in various roles including HGV drivers, refuse collectors and street cleaners, have voted for strike action. 

An initial strike has been called for Thursday 28 July and Friday 29 July with further strikes on August 4, 5 and 8. If the dispute is not swiftly resolved then additional action will be announced.

Fair pay needed

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members undertake a crucial role in keeping the streets of Sandwell clean and tidy. They deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

 “Serco is fully able to afford to make a decent pay rise but it would rather pay an increased dividend to shareholders than ensure its workers were paid fairly.

 “Unite will be ensuring our Serco members on the Sandwell contract receive the union’s total support until this dispute is resolved and they receive a decent pay rise.”

Low pay

Existing pay rates, on the contract, which has been outsourced by Sandwell council, are very low, with refuse collectors paid just £11.04 an hour.

The dispute is a result of the workers having rejected an eight per cent pay increase, which is significantly below the current (RPI) inflation rate of 11.7 per cent.

Serco is a fabulously wealthy company and it made pre-tax profits of £192.2 million for last year, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year. As a result the company increased dividend payments by 15 per cent and undertook a £90 million share buyback scheme.

Disruption expected 

Unite regional officer Lee Wiggetts-Clinton said: “Strike action will inevitably cause disruption to the residents of Sandwell but this dispute is entirely of Serco’s own making.

 “Even at this late stage strike action and the ensuing disruption can be avoided if Serco returns to the negotiating table and makes an improved offer which meets member’s expectations.”

The GMB and Unison are also involved in the dispute.


Notes to editors:

 For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.