Bristol residents face bin collection chaos as second union ballots workers

‘The need for fair pay becomes ever more pressing’
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People living in Bristol are set to face further disruptions to their bin collections this summer after a second union announced it was balloting members at Bristol Waste over industrial action.

Unison, which has 90 workers at the city council company, has joined Unite in calling on employees to walk out over pay. More than 200 Unite members at Bristol Waste, which collects kerbside rubbish, runs tips and cleans streets, have already voted overwhelmingly to go on strike, with the organisation warning householders are set for a “foul-smelling summer” if their demands are not met.

Dates for strikes in Bristol are set to be announced soon.

Unions’ 150 members who work for Suez on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council are already taking industrial action. Unison announced on Thursday (June 22) that it was also now asking workers if they would join them on the picket line.

Bristol Waste says it “remains keen to avoid industrial action and continues to seek an outcome that all parties can agree on”.

Unison said Bristol Waste’s proposed pay rise for recycling workers and drivers of seven per cent or £2,000, whichever is greater, from November 2022 to March 2024 was “considerably below” the union’s claim for 10 per cent.

It said 95 per cent of members rejected the offer in a recent consultation and indicated they would be willing to strike. A ballot on industrial action opened on Tuesday (June 20) and closes on Tuesday, July 18.

Unison South West regional organiser John Drake said: “It’s disappointing that it’s come to a strike ballot to persuade the employer to make a realistic offer. The cost-of-living crisis has not dissipated.

“Inflation is getting no better, food prices are soaring and energy bills remain high. The need for fair pay becomes ever more pressing. Striking is always a last resort, but workers deserve to be paid wages that reflect their essential roles and they’re determined to achieve that.”

Unite regional officer Ken Fish said: “Unite members at Bristol Waste voted overwhelmingly for industrial action and strike dates will be announced in the coming days.”

A Bristol Waste spokesperson said: “We deeply value the hard work of our crews and the services they provide for the city, and always seek to reflect that in the competitive salaries we offer.

“Given the wider economic challenges that all businesses are facing, and following negotiations with the trade unions, in January we put forward an offer of either a minimum seven per cent pay rise or £2,000 per year, whichever is higher, to April 2024.

“Unfortunately, this offer was rejected. We now understand that Unison are moving to ballot its members on possible industrial action.

“We remain keen to avoid industrial action and continue to seek an outcome that all parties can agree on.”