Refuse workers based in Bexley – the London borough with the capital’s best recycling record – have successfully balloted for strike action against their controversial outsourcing employer, Serco.
The roughly 120 workers from Bexley depot, members of Unite, earn between £8.90 & £9.50 an hour, which is below the London Living Wage and up to £4000 a year less than the recommended amount on 40+ hours a week. Furthermore, many workers are on zero hour contracts which consequently means, no sick pay and suffer within a culture of bullying.
The neighbouring borough of Greenwich currently pay their workers, doing the same job, £13.50 an hour accompanied by both sick and holiday pay.
The ballot was successfully returned on 21st February with a 70% turnout and 95% YES vote.
Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Our members do a physically exhausting job working long and unsocial hours. They have to work when they are sick or face being unable to pay their bills and, on top of that, they are bullied by managers. ‘Enough is enough’.
“Ironically, Bexley has best recycling record of London’s 32 boroughs and is ranked 46th of England’s 345 local authorities, according to the government’s own data – a tribute to our members’ hard work and dedication in all weathers.
“If ever there were a strong and irrefutable case for a pay rise, this has been provided by the information collected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
“However, our members are currently languishing on £8.90 or £9.15 an hour for working 42 hours a week – we are demanding at least £13 an hour which is what similar workers in next door Greenwich are being paid.
“The other issues, which need to be urgently addressed, include the lack of sick pay, a culture of managerial bullying, unsafe working practices, and a continued failure to deal with grievances in a fair and timely fashion.
“Bexley council should be making sure Serco is paying a wage our members can live on.”
Serco made annual profits of £102.5 million in 2019 and increased their profits by over 20% from 2018. Serco has therefore benefitted from underpaying and overworking its staff and Bexley council has allowed them to.
Willie Howard, a local organiser for Unite has been doing a fantastic job organising a demonstration outside of the Bexley cabinet meeting prior to ballot. Since the successful ballot, Willie has also organised leaflet sessions on the streets of local Tory council decision makers to warn residents why their bins won’t be collected or their streets cleaned.
The response has been incredible from local residents on the doors thus far. They have wholeheartedly supported their refuse workers right to strike for a fair days pay.
This isn’t just a fight for Bexley; this is a struggle for workers everywhere. If you are serious about fighting exploitation, poverty pay, privatisation and zero hour contracts then support this action.
Final Leafletting session will meet at Bexleyheath station @ 6.50pm, Wednesday 11th March.
For anybody who can make it to help out or want to learn more about future activities around this dispute, please contact Charlie Zahra @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to show a little support in another way, please sign the below petition and share as widely as possible.