Bins and street cleaning strike looms as union gives 'appalling' council one last chance

By Neil Speight

26th Mar 2021 | Local News

DATES for strike action by Thurrock's bin collectors and other environmental teams look set to be detailed next week unless the borough council responds to a call to end its 'appalling' stance and negotiate over planned changes to terms and conditions.

The long-running dispute between workers and the authority goes back to last year – and even beyond that it would be fair to say relations between the Unite union and its members and the council, particularly chief executive Lyn Carpenter, are tense.

Things have not been helped by constant smaller skirmishes over health and safety in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only this week workers contacted Thurrock Nub News claiming the council were employing agency workers to make up rotas and forcing them out on the streets in breach of agreed Covoi-19 agreements.

"They are now putting them out four to a van, no attempt at distancing" we were told and a video was supplied to back up the point.

The council and the union have agreed to adhere to rules and regulations detailed in a document drawn up by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum – but the workers say the council is not sticking to it.

However, the council has countered by saying: "The council has, and continues to take every measure advised by both Public Health as well as health and safety to provide appropriate PPE, training and working conditions to ensure the safety of all our waste crews over the last year.

"All processes have been agreed fully with trade unions including how the crews access and exit the site. Crews operate in bubbles, regardless of being agency or permanent members of staff and every action is taken to ensure their continued safety. To suggest otherwise is simply not true."

The attention now turns back to the battle over pay and conditions, and the result of a recent ballot in which members overwhelmingly backed Unite's threat of industrial action.

A statement issued to Thurrock Nub News today (Friday, 26 march) says: "Our members have voted in support of strike action. They have worked tirelessly, providing essential services during the pandemic.

"The council is behaving appallingly. Unless the council urgently engages constructively with the union to resolve this dispute we will be setting strike dates next week."

Thurrock Nub News understands that initially there will be two one day strikes, possibly in the second week of April.

The council has declined to comment on matters between it and the union, saying: "In relation to discussions with trade unions, these continue and the council will not comment publicly on this matter."

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