Refuse workers employed by Newham council, who could have lost more than £20,000 each since 2007 in a dispute over grading, will strike for nearly a fortnight, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 11 June).

Unite, which represents the majority of the refuse workers, warned that, if the strikes goes ahead, most of the household bins in the borough won’t be collected which could ‘create an unpleasant stench’ should there be a heatwave.

The 45 refuse workers voted by 88 per cent to strike over the council’s failure to progress them through the grading structure which should, as agreed, have commenced 12 years ago in 2007/2008.

The strike will run from 00:01 on Monday 24 June until 23:59 on Friday 5 July. However, both sides will hold talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas next week.

Unite has calculated that the potential loss of pay because of the failure to upgrade the workers amounts to £1,760 a year – a total of £21,000 over the last 12 years, depending on the service record of individual workers.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Newham council has repeatedly failed to live up to the agreement it signed more than a decade ago for the progression from grade 3 to grade 4 and then grade 5 on the national pay scales, if the refuse workers had satisfactory appraisals.

“As a result, our members have voted overwhelmingly to strike for nearly a fortnight because of backsliding and ‘ducking-and-diving’ that has been the hallmark of the council’s attitude to this issue. The grievance complaint that Unite lodged on this issue was not heard until June 2018.

“If the strike goes ahead, most household bins in the borough won’t be collected and there could be an unpleasant stench in the hot weather, worthy of Victorian London.

“This gives an added incentive for the Acas talks next week to succeed and deliver a fair settlement for our members. 

“We estimate that, depending on individual circumstances, refuse workers could have lost up to £21,000 in back pay – a considerable sum for this relatively lowly paid group of workers who are out in all weathers. 

“This is an issue of basic trust and if the employer is allowed to get away with not implementing the agreement, then it will be emboldened to do so again and again – eventually affecting every council employee adversely.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Based on 2018 figures, the top of grade 3 is £22,858. The top of grade 4 is £24,618. Therefore, leaving aside the potential to progress to grade 5, that is a potential loss of £1,760 each year from 2007/08.

The national agreement is the Green Book - also known as the National Joint Council (NJC). The pay grades are as per the Greater London Provincial Council (GLPC) scheme.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065. Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.