Staff at rubbish contractor Veolia call off their Sutton strike

The threatened two-week strike action by Sutton’s refuse teams working for rubbish contractor Veolia has been suspended as a “gesture of goodwill”, the workers’ union, the GMB, announced this morning.

On the road: the GMB has suspended its strike action by Veolia staff in Sutton that was due to start on Monday

Veolia had “partially” addressed the concerns of workers, the union said.

Workers employed on Kingston’s Veolia (bins) and Idverde (parks) operations will continue to take planned action, starting on Monday October 23.

Kingston and Sutton are both members of the South London Waste Partnership, together with Merton and Croydon councils, which contract Veolia for their bins and recycling services.

Although many staff perform similar tasks and hours for Veolia across the SLWP, workers in Sutton and Kingston were unhappy that they are paid less than others in the sector. There have even been pay discrepancies between Veolia staff working in different boroughs within the SLWP.

Union members at Veolia in Sutton “are particularly angry that their union of choice was not consulted during recent wage negotiations”, the GMB said earlier this month when announcing the two-week strike action.

It is 12 months since the South London Waste Partnership decided to dump its contract with rubbish contractors Veolia.

The decision was reached following “significant and ongoing concerns” with Veolia’s performance, which saw Croydon, Merton and Sutton each issue the contractor with a Service Improvement Notice in early 2022.

Veolia was awarded an eight-year bins contract across the SLWP boroughs in 2017. The contract was worth “over £209million”, according to Veolia. The messy relationship is due to wind down finally in 2025.

Industrial action by Veolia staff in Kingston is unlikely to make the winding down process any easier.

But in announcing the suspension of strike action in Sutton, GMB union official Alex Etches said: “Our members have recognised the attempts by the company to address their long-held concerns and as such have agreed to suspend the action due to commence next week to continue with talks and make further progress.

“Our mandate for industrial action remains in place for six months, which we hope we don’t have to revert to.

“The ball though is firmly in the company’s court.

“Perhaps bosses at Veolia Kingston and Idverde might want to follow suit and meet us for talks so we can avoid any unnecessary inconvenience to south London residents all together.”

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