As the Local Government Association (LGA) gathers for its annual conference in Bournemouth, Unite, the UK’s leading union, is warning that councils must urgently address low pay for refuse collection workers.

Five bin disputes

Unite is currently involved in five live industrial disputes involving council refuse collection workers. There are two active strikes in South Gloucestershire and Somerset involving outsourced workers employed by waste management company Suez, Bristol council refuse workers are also set to begin strike action, Urbaser workers in Selby are taking strike action this month, while refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services in Cumbria have been on all out strike since 16 May.

The disputes all involve pay, either as a result of private outsourced companies attempting to restrict pay rates in order to boost profits, or councils being unable or unwilling to properly remunerate its own workers who are undertaking a vital frontline role in difficult and challenging conditions.

Low pay

Unite has found that loaders are frequently paid barely above the minimum wage, while drivers who must legally hold an HGV licence can be paid less than £12 an hour.

Unite is currently balloting all of its local government members in England and Wales for industrial action with the result due later this month, having rejected the national pay offer. This could result in fresh refuse collection strikes.

Unite is also considering further industrial action involving outsourced refuse collection workers, where operators are not paying workers fairly.

Rubbish pay

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “As the great and the good from the LGA meet in Bournemouth, top of the agenda should be how to end rubbish pay for refuse collection workers.

“Unite is putting councils and outsourcers on notice, low pay is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Unite is totally focused on jobs, pay and conditions and if our refuse collection members are prepared to take industrial action Unite will back them all the way.”

Recent win

In addition to the current live disputes Unite also recently resolved a dispute in Welwyn and Hatfield involving refuse collection staff employed by Urbaser; workers returned to work having agreed a 13.5 per cent pay increase.

In the past year Unite has been involved in a further 21 refuse collection disputes throughout the UK.

Huge disruption 

Unite national officer for local government Clare Keogh said: “Bin strikes cause huge disruption to local communities but they are a direct result of councils and privateers suppressing workers’ wages.

“Our members are saying load and clear they will not stand for it any longer, councils need to take notice or face further refuse collection strikes.”


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.