Croydon’s going to get a whole lot more stinking this summer, as bin lorry workers are set to go on strike for three weeks in a dispute over what their union calls “poverty pay”.
More than 100 workers with rubbish contractors Veolia, employed as drivers, loaders and sweepers on the outsourced Croydon Council refuse contract, will begin strike action next Thursday, June 16.
Their union, Unite, says that the strike will continue until July 8.
“Further strike action could be announced if no progress is made in the dispute,” Unite said in a statement issued yesterday.
Unite said, “The workers are striking over poverty rates of pay, with many workers earning over £7,000 a year less than comparative roles in other London boroughs.”
The bin lorry drivers, who must hold a HGV licence, are paid £12.51 per hour.
Many of the loaders and sweepers receive £10.75 an hour – 30p an hour below the London Living Wage, despite the previous Labour-run council promising in 2014 that all its staff and contractors’ staff would be paid at least the LLW.
“These workers deserve a pay rise and Veolia can well afford to pay it,” said Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary.
“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.
“This is out-and-out corporate greed and we will challenge it all the way. Unite will be giving our members its total support until this dispute is resolved.”
Unite has called on Croydon Council, as the client, to intervene in the dispute to ensure that Veolia pays a fair rate of pay. So far, elected Mayor Jason Perry has been entirely silent on the matter of the impending three-week strike.
As recently as 2020, when Stooge Collins was the Labour councillor in charge of the state of the borough’s streets, he agreed a £21million uplift on Veolia’s contract.
But by the beginning of this year, with Veolia still using the excuse of a lack of HGV drivers to deliver its contracted service, Croydon Council lodged a formal complaint – a Service Improvement Notice – about the company’s poor delivery record, with missed bin collections a particular issue.
Unite has been in discussions over workers’ pay with Veolia for 10 months. The company has offered an increase of 2.5per cent for drivers and just 2per cent for sweepers and loaders for 2021. Unite said, “The company is also attempting to impose a real-terms pay cut for 2022. The real inflation rate (RPI) is currently 11.1per cent.”
French-owned Veolia is in the middle of a £11.1billion takeover of another waste management company, Suez, and has announced it expects to make a profit of more than £1billion this year.
Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “Despite extensive negotiations, Veolia has refused to table anything like an adequate pay offer. As a result, our members are being forced to take strike action as a last resort.
“Even at this late stage strike action and the resulting disruption it will cause can still be avoided by Veolia making an offer that meets members’ expectations.”
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