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Low paid refuse workers secure pay increase after strike action

A refuse collection worker loads a wheelie bin onto the back of a refuse collection truck

Strike action affecting Welwyn and Hatfield council’s refuse collection service has been resolved following several days of strike action.

Over 90 members of Unite the Union, employed by waste company Urbaser on Welwyn and Hatfield council’s outsourced refuse collection service, began strike action in a dispute over pay. The dispute was a result of the workers rejecting Urbaser’s pay offer of 6.8 per cent. This amounted to a real terms pay cut, with RPI, currently standing at just over 11 per cent.

Most of the loaders and street cleaning staff were paid the national minimum wage rate of £10.42. The drivers, who are required to hold an HGV licence, were on £15 an hour, which was significantly below industry rates.

Following talks brokered by the conciliation service Acas, an improved offer of a 13.5 per cent pay increase was made and accepted by the workforce.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: 

“This is a tremendous result, which was made possible by the absolute unity of our members. By standing together and taking industrial action, they ensured the employer made a vastly improved offer. This result demonstrates yet again how Unite’s relentless focus on jobs, pay and conditions is achieving direct financial benefits for its members.”

As part of the pay deal Urbaser also agreed to set up a working group to consider introducing sick pay and overtime premium payments. 

Unite is currently involved in five industrial disputes involving council refuse collection workers. There are two active strikes in South Gloucestershire and Somerset involving outsourced workers employed by waste management company Suez; Bristol council refuse workers are also set to begin strike action; Urbaser workers in Selby are taking strike action this month, while refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services in Cumbria have been on all out strike since 16 May.