Bin strike in South Gloucestershire could last all summer

A STRIKE by South Gloucestershire’s bin crews could now last all summer.

Union Unite has announced that the current strike action, originally planned to end on July 9, will now continue until September 3 unless a deal can be reached.

The union says contractor Suez and South Gloucestershire Council had “ignored repeated requests by Unite to engage in talks to resolve the dispute”.  

The council has advised residents that it is prioritising fortnightly collections of black bins and nappy sacks by those staff still working. It

The action followed a one-week strike earlier in June, staged by 150 workers in response to a pay offer described as a “significant real terms pay cut”.

As the second strike began on Monday, the council said there would not be “sufficient staff” to collect recycling, food bins or green bins and urged people not to put them out.

It is still advising residents to put out black bins on scheduled days and report missed collections.

A spokesperson said more than half of Suez operational staff were on strike, and said it hoped Suez and the union could come to a “swift resolution”, adding: “We understand that this will be concerning news for residents, and we are doing all we can to minimise the impact.

“We are working with the staff Suez has available, to provide the best level of service possible under the circumstances.”

The council is advising people to visit its website or call the Streetcare team on 01454 868000 for updates.

Recycling centres in Yate, Thornbury and Mangotsfield were being kept open, with extra facilities set up to deposit food waste.

The council says it is not involved in the pay negotiations, as the striking workers are employees of Suez.

Union Unite said 89% of workers who took part in a ballot voted to strike, after rejecting an 8% per cent pay offer from Suez.

The union said: “With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 11.4%, this is a significant real terms pay cut. 

Unite says Suez made profits of £80.8 million in 2021. The company’s South Gloucestershire bin loaders earn £11.53 per hour – equivalent to around £460 for a five-day week at eight hours per day, or just under £24,000 a year.   

Unite regional officer Ken Fish is calling on the council to intervene in the negotiations.

He said: “Unite has repeatedly tried to initiate negotiations with Suez and South Gloucestershire council to bring this dispute to an end. It is a dereliction of duty to the public on the part of both organisations that these requests for talks have been ignored.

“Our members don’t want to strike, but their determination to ensure a fair pay deal is rock solid. Industrial action will continue until Suez puts an acceptable offer to our members. It is time the council intervened and told the company to do so.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Despite Suez’s claims about generous pay offers, its workers are on very low wages even though the work they do is heavy, difficult and dirty. It is a highly profitable company making tens of millions and can afford to give its struggling staff a reasonable wage increase.”

Suez says its two most recent pay offers together represent a pay increase of up to 16.75% over two years.

A spokesperson said: “This was rejected by Unite the trade union, who are seeking a 15% increase for 2023 alone, which would deliver pay increases in excess of 22% over 2 years.

“Industrial action is the very last outcome we wanted to see and our goal is to reach an agreement that would bring this to an end. Our door is still open and we welcome further discussions with Unite.  

“With just over 40% of our people in South Gloucestershire continuing to work, we are able to provide a limited collection service that prioritises collecting black bin waste and opening the larger Sort It centres. 

“We’re also developing arrangements for recycling to cover the union’s proposed strike over the summer, such as some Sort It centres opening earlier with dedicated space for food waste and extra recycling.

“Unfortunately these won’t be as convenient as our normal weekly household collection service but they will allow householders to continue to recycle. 

“We’d like to apologise to our residents in South Gloucestershire for the disruption from the strike action and thank them for their patience.”