South London bins strike looks set to drag on into August

Pile up: the rubbish service in Bexley just got a whole lot worse

It is turning into a very long, hot and particularly smelly summer in Tory-controlled Bexley, where a bins strike has today been extended by a further fortnight, until at least August 7.

Unite, the trades union representing striking refuse workers employed by Countryside Recycling, have urged the local council to intervene over attempts to scrap what’s known as “job and finish” provision.

More than 100 workers, responsible for loading and driving bin lorries, began two weeks of strike action yesterday. Another two weeks of all-out strikes will now begin on July 25, Unite confirmed this morning.

Countrystyle has offered the workers a below-inflation pay deal and also wants to scrap the long-standing “job and finish” clause in their contracts which allows workers, when they have finished their round, to finish work for the day. Countrystyle want to force to stay at the depot when their work is finished; union members have reported that CCTV monitoring is being used to target workers.

“The biggest obstacle to resolving this dispute is the ending of the ‘job and finish’ provision for Countrystyle’s workers,” said Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary.

Outraged: Unite’s Sharon Graham

“Working on bin rounds is dirty smelly heavy work done in all weathers.

“This industry-standard provision, in place in Bexley for decades, makes the job bearable for staff. It is outrageous that Countrystyle is trying to scrap it.

“Ending it needs to come off the table or these strikes will continue with Unite’s full support.”

In a statement, it said that “crews will be asked to help each other out, by collecting additional bins that may have been missed by another grouped crew, for example, due to vehicle breakdown or staff illness”.

Unite said its members already do these things. They suspect that in reality, the clause will be used to prevent staff from leaving the depot when their work is complete in order to penalise them. They also suggest that the removal of “job and finish” is being used as a bargaining device to reduce any eventual settlement in the pay dispute.

“The ‘efficiency savings’ generated by formalising group and task finish will be absolutely minimal – this is about punishing workers because they asked for a cost of living pay rise,” said Unite’s regional officer, Tabusam Ahmed.

“If the financial pressure from running the service has caused such an over-reaction from Countrystyle, then the company and Bexley Council need to review their contract to allow operations to run properly.”

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1 Response to South London bins strike looks set to drag on into August

  1. Martin Rosen says:

    My instinct is that “job and finish” is an excellent idea PROVIDED THAT Unite accepts this as a perk of the job and therefore will reduce the pay rate. It would be interesting to see the company’s statistics telling them what time typically the workers have been going home.

    I assume that there are ample management checks in place to ensure that the workers do not cut corners in order to leave early? Certainly Veolia in Croydon seem to have no such checks, and the slapdash methods of the bin collectors are appalling!

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