South Glos bin workers begin strike action as union members lobby council

Yesterday’s lobby by union members outside the Civic Centre

Around 150 workers employed by Suez emptying bins in South Gloucestershire have begun their first week of strike action, with missed collections starting to build.

The members of the Unite union are striking over pay.

Normal collections will resume next week but a second phase of strike action is planned from Monday 26th June to Sunday 9th July. And if the dispute is not resolved, industrial action will intensify over the summer, says Unite.

Strike action began yesterday. Today South Gloucestershire Council said on its Facebook page: “Black bin (household waste) collections will go ahead as planned today but we expect recycling collections to be affected by industrial action by staff at the council’s waste contractor, Suez.

“Please put out black bins, recycling and food waste as normal this week, on your usual collection day, but if any items are not collected by 6pm, please bring your containers back in and present them again on your next scheduled collection day. We are prioritising black bin collections as residents have asked us to do but we may be able to do some recycling collection as well.

“Garden waste (green bin) collection will not take place this week. Garden waste subscriptions that are affected will be extended to compensate. you do not have to contact us to request this.

“Please do not report missed collections this week. All Sort It centres are open and facilities are in place at Yate and Mangotsfield Sort It centres for residents to deposit food waste.”

There are updates on services affected during the industrial action on the council’s website.

The council added: “We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this industrial action may cause.”

Unite says that staff voted to strike by 89% after rejecting an eight per cent pay offer from Suez, which according to its latest UK financial returns brought in profits of £80.8m in 2021.

The union says that with the real rate of inflation the Retail Price Index (RPI) at 11.4%, this is a significant real terms pay cut. The company’s bin loaders in South Gloucestershire earn £11.53 per hour.

Members of both the Unite and Unison unions held a lobby of South Gloucestershire Council outside Kingswood Civic Centre yesterday.

Social workers and occupational therapists who are members of Unison have now taken six days of strike action this year “for safe staffing levels and quality social care services for our communities”.

The dispute started after a decision by the council to award staff in children’s services an additional temporary £3,000 payment on top of their basic annual salary. This uplift was not offered to those doing the same job in adult services.

Until last month’s local elections, South Gloucestershire Council run by the Conservatives. It is now run by a Lib Dem/Labour coalition.