Unite members are among over 200 workers employed by waste management company Biffa on Manchester council’s outsourced refuse collection service considering strike action in a dispute over low pay.

Insulting offer

Biffa, which logged £26 million in pre-tax profits last year, is a private company so not bound by the local government pay restraint policy. However, Biffa is refusing to pay above the 1.75 per cent for local government pay in 2021, leaving many of its workers with an hourly wage just 64 pence above the legal minimum wage.

With the real cost of living now running at 8.2 percent (RPI) and prices rising at the highest rate in generations, Unite is pressing for a rise that will help address spiralling costs.

The workers are employed as drivers, loaders and environmental operatives. A vote in favour of industrial action will see strikes begin later this spring.

Biffa must get real

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Biffa has to get real. It can easily afford to offer our members a decent pay rise but instead is proposing an insulting pay cut. Biffa must think again and put hard-pressed workers before boardroom greed. 

“Our members at Biffa will be receiving Unite’s full support until this dispute is resolved and a fair offer is made to the workers.”

Balloting dates

The ballot will open on Tuesday 29 March and closes on Tuesday 12 April.

Biffa is proposing to pay loaders and environmental operatives just £10.14 an hour, which is only 64 pence above the new minimum wage rates. The proposed rate of £13.00 an hour for drivers, who are required to hold a HGV licence, is far below standard commercial rates.

Despite its commercial waste operation being heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and several lockdowns, Biffa remains highly profitable, recording pre-tax profits of £26 million last year.

Last resort

Unite regional officer Tanya Sweeney said: “Unite has attempted to resolve this dispute through negotiations but Biffa has refused to improve its offer. Workers have been left with no option but to ballot for industrial action.

 “Even now Biffa can avoid strikes and all the disruption they will cause to the general public in Manchester by making an improved pay offer and returning to the negotiating table.”

The GMB union is also balloting its members at the company over the same issue.


Notes to editors:

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

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.