Refuse workers strike over pay disparity row

Refuse workers based in Oldbury, UK have taken part in industrial action over pay disparity, bullying claims, and health and safety disputes.

More than 80 binmen were striking at Sandwell Council’s tip in Shidas Lane earlier this week, from 5.30am until noon, against Serco, which manages public service contracts. Further strikes will take place on 7, 14 and 21 September, with 60,000 households set to be affected across these days.

According to the GMB union, various different contracts have been used by Serco to employ staff, who state they are on different pay packages. It also argues there is a culture of “bullying and harassment” with employees claiming they have had “no support” from Sandwell Council over this.

Gill Ogilevie, senior organiser for GMB Sandwell branch, commented there were “meaningful talks” between both parties until the “last minute”, where communications broke down.

“There has been barely any support from Sandwell Council. Quite the opposite actually. It’s almost as if they want to brush it under the carpet,” she said.

Labour councillor Rizwan Jalil of the Oldbury ward attended discussions with GMB and the employees.

“It is unfortunate that this dispute is a result of national government policy outsourcing various parts of our public service, we should not let this happen. I hope that this strike can get resolved quickly and efficiently for all of the borough, our workers, and our residents,” he said.

Iain Stockdale-Smith, senior contract manager for Serco, added that the business has had many “positive” meetings with the union over the last few months and “significant” progress has been made on the issues raised.”

“During official industrial action, the law prevents us from bringing in additional staff to replace those on strike, but we want to assure residents we will try to keep any disruption to a minimum and our teams will be working hard behind the scenes to organise the resources we have in the most effective way,” he said.