Bexley councillors have been urged to jettison the controversial Serco refuse contract, as about 140 refuse workers gear up for a strike ballot over health & safety Covid-19 concerns.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, due to discuss a critical report on Serco’s refuse collection performance on Thursday (8 October), should ditch a proposal to extend the outsourcer’s contract until 2025.

Unite said its refuse collection members will start receiving ballot papers on Friday (9 October) for strike action on a number of issues, including health & safety concerns and the failure to upgrade a number of workers to agreed pay rates. The ballot closes on Friday 30 October.

Unite said that the strike ballot was the latest chapter in what was ‘a dismal industrial relations regime’, including a continuing culture of managerial bullying, at the Thames Road depot, Crayford that predated the March lockdown.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Bexley councillors will discuss a highly critical report on missed collections on Thursday and we hope that this will be another nail in the coffin of Serco’s aspirations to continue with the contract until 2025.

“Serco has tried to blame its failings on our members, but the reality is that the poor service is down to bad management, cost cutting, low morale and low pay which means the company can’t attract drivers to work on the contract.

“The strike ballot by our members is the latest chapter in the dismal industrial relation regime presided over by Serco bosses during the course of its contract.

“We are very concerned about the lack of proper assessment of Covid-19 measures. For example, three employees being on a lorry has been raised to four without consultation with the union.

“When Unite raises health & safety concerns, Serco threatens to discipline workers for not following instructions, rather than taking any responsibility themselves.

“Bexley council needs to recognise that the Serco contract has come to the end of the road and should not be extended until 2025. It should be taken back in-house as it is not the best use of council taxpayers’ money.

“Increasingly, the public is recognising that flawed reliance on the private sector, especially during the pandemic, is a huge mistake – and that public health, which includes refuse collection, should not be handed over to profit-hungry outsourcing giants.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

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.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: 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.