BY JAMES TWOMEY
A “stinking summer” looms as strikes by refuse workers and employees at waste collection centres could spark months of bin chaos.
Workers at two waste collection centres, in Wandsworth and Battersea, which are used by all major waste carriers in South London, are set for four days of industrial action later this month across two weeks – creating a month’s worth of collection backlog.
The waste collection centre workers will strike on June 23 and 24 and on June 30 and July 1.
The workers there, who are employed by Cory Environmental Ltd, are protesting that their wages are not meeting the increasing rate of inflation and are “tantamount to a pay cut”.
The GMB union, which organised the strike, is warning residents of all South London boroughs to expect a knock-on effect on their waste collection services.
Paul Grafton, GMB regional organiser, said most refuse lorries need to tip twice a day and to expect rubbish to “pile up on the streets” if the strikes go ahead.
He estimated one day of both waste centres being closed would take a week to recover and with four days of industrial action planned across two weeks, South London’s waste collection could be in disarray for at least a month.
GMB have further strike dates planned following if conditions are not met.
Mr Grafton said: “There is a very simple way for all this inconvenience on the general public to be avoided – Cory needs to offer their workers a pay deal that won’t result in them being worse off at the end of each month.”
Meanwhile, bins in Croydon could sit uncollected for three weeks as more than 100 refuse workers on “poverty pay” have threatened to strike for three weeks – from Thursday, June 16 with the strike ending on July 8.
The refuse workers are employed by French-owned waste management company Veolia, which Croydon council outsources for its waste management.
The strike has been organised by Unite union who said that the refuse workers earn at least £7,000 a year less than comparative roles in other London boroughs.
The refuse drivers, who must hold a HGV licence, are paid £12.51 an hour while many of the loaders and sweepers receive just £10.75 an hour, which is 30 pence an hour below the London Living Wage.
Unite union said Croydon faces a “stinking summer” if the strikes go ahead.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These workers deserve a pay rise and Veolia can well afford to pay it.
“It is a disgrace that a company expecting to pocket over £1billion in profits won’t pay the rate for the job and is demanding our workers take a pay cut while inflation soars.”
A Croydon council spokesman said: “We hope that ongoing negotiations between Veolia and Unite can progress and would strongly encourage parties to reach a satisfactory outcome which avoids industrial action.”
The South London Press approached Cory Environmental for comment but it did not reply before we went to print, while Veolia said it was unable to provide a comment until the results of the ballot were confirmed.
Pictured: Rubbish collection strikes are not new, as this picture from Leicester Square in 1979 showed when mountains of rubbish were dumped due to the continuing strike by dustbin collectors from the City of Westminster in support of a pay claim. Picture: PA