Refuse workers and street cleaners prepare for strike action

Members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, employed by Tower Hamlets will begin strike action later this month in a dispute over pay.

Over 200 workers made up of refuse and street cleaners have rejected the national pay offer of a flat rate increase of £1,925. The offer is below the rate of inflation and amounts to real terms pay cut.

The workers will initially take strike action from Monday 18 September until Sunday 1 October.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members provide critical frontline council services. Despite the essential roles our members undertake their employer thinks it is acceptable to propose what amounts to yet another real terms pay cut, at a time when they increasingly can’t make ends meet.

“Unite never takes a backward step in supporting its members and is dedicated to enhancing their jobs, pay and conditions. Unite will be providing members at Tower Hamlets with its complete support.”

 A survey of Unite members in local authorities, has highlighted how years of pay freezes and below inflation pay deals has resulted in workers facing desperate financial choices. The survey found:

  • Nearly half (48 per cent) have struggled to afford heating, electricity and water bills 
  • 30 per cent have struggled to afford food and clothing
  • Almost a quarter (23 per cent) are skipping meals to save money
  • 17 per cent have struggled to meet rent and mortgage payments
  • Six per cent have been forced to use food banks.

Councils are not legally bound to follow the local government pay increase and can pay a higher rate to workers if they wish to do so.

A total of 23 local authorities have voted for industrial action in the dispute which will escalate next month and throughout the autumn.

Unite regional officer Nick West said: “The proposed strike action will inevitably cause major disruption to bin collections and street cleaning services in Tower Hamlets. This dispute is a direct result of local government employers failing to value workers and failing to reward them for their hard work.”


Contact: Ciaran Naidoo 07768 931 315