The Croydon bins strike, due to start on Thursday in a dispute over “poverty pay”, has been called off after the council’s rubbish contractors, Veolia, finally agreed an improved pay deal for some of their poorest-paid workers.
The strike was due to last for three weeks, in the hottest part of the year, but has been averted after the Unite union, which represents around 100 drivers, loaders and sweepers on the outsourced Croydon Council refuse contract, accepted a much-improved pay offer.
Veolia had been stalling on any agreement over 10 months of negotiations.
But this afternoon Unite announced that their members had voted to accept an improved pay offer worth 8.5per cent and an additional one-off payment £750 – worth an additional 3.4per cent for the lowest paid, to a total of 11.9per cent.
Before this settlement, some of Veolia’s staff were being paid below the London Living Wage, despite that being set as a minimum level for all staff and contractor workers, as announced by Croydon Council in 2014.
In 2020, Veolia was handed a £21million contract “uplift” by Croydon Council. “I can assure you that none of that money has been passed on to benefit any of our members,” according to one source at the union.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham heralded the outcome as a “Unite win”.
This afternoon, she said, “This deal puts much-needed money into our members’ pockets at a tough time.
“Well done to our members for taking a stand and supporting each other. Their solidarity sent a clear message to Veolia that our members were determined to win a better deal on pay.
“Once again, workers can see the very real benefits of belonging to Unite, a union committed to defending and enhancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members.”
Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “This was a significant dispute and Unite will be building on this pay deal in future negotiations with Veolia to further improve our members’ pay and conditions on this contract.
“Going forward it is hoped that there will now be more positive industrial relations with Veolia.”
Often, when unions are in negotiation with operators running outsourced contracts for local authorities, pressure may be brought to bear with the council to avoid industrial action, with tax-payers ultimately putting up extra cash towards a settlement. With Croydon Council being pot-less, it seems unlikely that there would have been any flexibility for that to occur on this occasion.
Certainly, Croydon Council had officially been saying nothing about making any effort to avert a potentially very smelly dispute.
Jason Perry, the Tory Mayor of Croydon, had been notably quiet in public on the situation, but this afternoon he tweeted, “I am pleased to hear that the planned strike by Croydon’s refuse workers is no longer proceeding, I know this will be a great relief to residents.
“Keeping our streets clean is a top priority, and just one part of our journey towards restoring pride in our borough.”
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