Some of Croydon’s rubbish contractor Veolia’s lowest-paid workers are being balloted over strike action.
The Unite trades union is asking around 100 refuse workers employed by Veolia as drivers, loaders and sweepers whether they are prepared to take part in a series of stoppages.
Under contracts with Veolia agreed by Croydon’s previous Labour-run administration, the workers’ wages are around £7,000 per year below pay rates for comparative workers in London. Many of the HGV drivers are on £12.51 per hour while the lowest-paid loaders and sweepers are on £10.75 per hour.
Despite many months of negotiations, Veolia gave their drivers a 2.5per cent pay rise last year, with sweepers and loaders getting a 2per cent increase in 2021. For 2022, Veolia is refusing to offer an increase any more than 2.5per cent, while inflation has soared to 9per cent, and rising, meaning a real-terms pay cut for their staff.
“It’s just not acceptable that key workers in Croydon are facing a large real-terms pay cut at a time of spiralling living costs, especially as their employer, Veolia, can easily afford to pay fairly,” said Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary.
“Veolia is exceptionally wealthy – it only recently found billions to buy another company. This is just boardroom greed putting profits before pay once again.”
In 2020, the Croydon’s Labour council agreed a £22million “uplift” in their payments to contractor Veolia.
Over the past two years, Veolia has repeatedly used a lack of trained HGV drivers as its excuse for repeated missed bin collections in Croydon and other boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership, the unaccountable quango which manages waste contracts for the councils. Croydon, Merton and Sutton councils have now all filed formal complaints about poor service from Veolia.
The strike ballot began last week and runs to May 23. If the workers vote for industrial action, then strikes could begin in early June.
“Our members take great pride in keeping Croydon clean and tidy but they simply can’t tolerate low rates of pay any longer,” said Clare Keogh, the union’s officer.
“Despite months of negotiations Veolia has refused to make a fair pay offer, Unite’s members have been left with no option but to ballot for strike action. Strike action could still be avoided but Veolia needs to return to the negotiating table with an offer that meets our members’ expectations.”
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