Unite, the UK’s leading union, has discovered that Labour-controlled Cumberland council is using new Conservative anti-trade union laws in an attempt to undermine a lawful strike.

Low paid refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services began strike action last week after their employer refused to increase pay rates of £10.90 an hour for loaders and £11.89 for drivers, which are amongst the lowest in the UK for refuse workers.

Allerdale Waste Services is a private company that is 100 per cent owned by Labour controlled Cumberland council.

Agency workers undermining lawful strike

Unite has learned that rather than seek a resolution to the dispute, Allerdale Waste Services has instead utilised recently introduced Conservative anti-trade union laws, which allows the employer to recruit agency workers to undermine lawful industrial strike action.

Unite has further learned that the agency loaders and drivers are being paid £14 an hour, which is far in excess of the rates of pay for its permanent staff.


Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is disgraceful that a Labour authority is prepared to sit back and allow a legitimate strike to be undermined through the use of agency labour made possible by new Conservative government strike breaking laws.

“Not only should the council and Labour councillors be telling Allerdale Waste that its actions are totally unacceptable, but they should also be ensuring that a fair pay offer is made to end the poverty pay our members are currently suffering.”

Council inaction

Unite met last week with leader of Cumberland council Mark Fryer and raised serious concerns about the recruitment of agency labour. Cllr Fryer said he was unaware of the practice and promised to look into it. However since then an even greater number of agency workers have been recruited.

The Unite members are currently midway through their second period of industrial action which ends on Sunday 7 May. Further strike action will take place next week from Tuesday 9 May ending on Thursday 11 May. Unite has further escalated the dispute with an all-out strike set to begin on Tuesday 16 May.

Despite the attempts to undermine the strike action the majority of Allerdale Waste’s refuse vehicles are not operating.

Miserable pay

Unite regional officer Ryan Armstrong said: “Allerdale Waste has refused to improve its miserable pay rates citing budget issues. Yet it is paying agency workers a far higher rate than its permanent staff receive. The company is guilty of crying crocodile tears and can fully afford to make a fair pay offer to its loyal workforce.

 “The strike action has already caused considerable disruption to the local area and that is only going to get worse the longer the dispute continues. However this strike is entirely of Allerdale Waste’s own making it has had every opportunity to resolve this dispute but has chosen not to.

“The escalation to all out strike action is a direct result of the company seeking to undermine a lawful dispute by paying agency labour £14 per hour and Allerdale Waste’s failure to value our members’ knowledge, competence and frontline service.”

The GMB union is 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.